Memory of Benazir Bhutto, Cut U.S. Ties to Musharraf By Medea Benjamin
Memory of Benazir Bhutto, Cut U.S. Ties to Musharraf
By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Our hearts and thoughts are with the Pakistani
people as they mourn the death of Benazir Bhutto.
We extend our deep sorrow to her family and the
millions of supporters who for decades have seen
the Bhutto family as a source of inspiration.
We also extend our condolences to the families
of the other Pakistanis who were killed in this
We at CODEPINK were in touch with the former Prime
Minister when we were writing our book Stop the
Next War Now. In fact, Bhutto graciously contributed
an essay that was a plea to counter extremism
and “a clash of civilizations that can lead
to Armageddon, where there will be no winners
Bhutto's assassination is a blow to people
all over Pakistan, and the world, who hold life
sacred and believe in the basics precepts of democracy.
It is also a blow to women worldwide who took
strength from seeing such a courageous, articulate
and charismatic woman playing a leadership role
in a powerful Muslim country. Inside Pakistan,
even her most bitter critics wept at the news
of her death, understanding that it is indeed
a dark day when assassination becomes a tool for
eliminating opposing viewpoints.
There is much speculation about who committed
this odious act. It could certainly be religious
militants opposed to a leader like Bhutto who
repeatedly expressed her determination to combat
violent extremists. Bhutto was perceived by many
Pakistanis as too “pro-Western,” especially
after remarks that if elected Prime Minister,
she might allow U.S. military strikes inside Pakistan
to eliminate al-Qaeda.
But it is not too far-fetched to think that the
assassination could have been orchestrated by
Pervez Musharraf or members of the military. Many
in Pakistan speculated that the government was
responsible for the bomb blasts that killed 140
Pakistanis when Bhutto first returned home on
October 18, citing the fact that the street lights
were turned off just before the attack and questioning
the lack of a serious investigation afterwards.
In fact, Musharraf had refused Bhutto's request
that an independent foreign team be brought in
to help with the investigation. This time, there
must be a serious investigation conducted by a
body independent of the government and those responsible
must be found and held accountable.
Elections scheduled for January 8 must be postponed.
Even before this tragedy, there were no conditions
for free and fair elections. The Musharraf regime
had fired independent judges, censored the press
and stacked the Election Commission. It is absolutely
key that an independent judiciary and free press
be restored, and that elections then be scheduled
under the aegis of an independent electoral commission.
The international community must put pressure
on Musharraf not to use this tragedy to impose
another round of emergency rule like the one he
imposed on November 3, which led to the crackdown
on lawyers, students, journalists and other members
of Pakistan's vibrant civil society. Bhutto's
death will be doubly tragic if it becomes an excuse
for Musharraf to stifle the very civil society
that is the true bulwark against extremism.
If Bhutto's death proves anything, it is
the utter failure of Musharraf's regime and
the utter failure of the Bush administration's
policy of supporting Musharraf. Pakistani civil
society has long been calling for Musharraf to
resign. Now leaders like former Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif have added their voice to that call,
publicly holding Musharraf responsible for Bhutto's
death and demanding he step down.
CODEPINK agrees that Musharraf is the biggest
obstacle facing a democratic Pakistan today. He
is not capable of either fighting extremists or
building a society that respects the rule of law.
My colleague Tighe Barry and I recently had a
taste of his dictatorial ways when we were kidnapped
and carjacked at gunpoint and then deported for
supporting the pro-democracy movement.
The US government must use this time to radically
change its policy in Pakistan. The Bush administration
has been a staunch supporter of Musharraf, providing
his regime with over $10 billion in financial
aid since 2001. In return, Musharraf was supposed
to fight religious extremists. But Osama bin Laden
has never been caught, and in the last few years
al-Qaeda and the Taliban have become stronger
in Pakistan. In the meantime, Musharraf's
use of US funds to crack down on the country's
democratic forces has led to growing anti-American
sentiments among the nation's moderate, secular
forces. The U.S. government should withhold assistance
until Musharraf steps down and a caretaker government
restores the independent judiciary, lifts restrictions
on the press and sets up the conditions for fair
We should also begin to focus our attention on
one of the key underlying causes for the growth
of extremism in Pakistan: the extreme poverty
that persists, especially in the tribal areas
where al-Qaeda is most active.
Bhutto spoke about this in the essay she wrote
for our book. Her words were poignant then, and
are even more poignant upon her death:
“The neglect of rising
poverty against the background of religious extremism
can only complicate an already difficult world
situation,” she said. “The war against
terrorism is primarily perceived as a war based
on the use of force. However, economics has its
own force, as does the desperation of families
who cannot feed themselves.
“Militancy and greed cannot become the defining
images of a new century that began with much hope.
We must refocus our energy on promoting the values
of democracy, accountability, broad-based government,
and institutions that can respond to people's
very real and very urgent needs.”
We, as global citizens, can pay tribute to Bhutto
by rising to her challenge. Whether in Pakistan
or in our home countries, we can dedicate ourselves
to building a world based on tolerance, cooperation
and fulfilling the urgent needs of the human family—which
are the pillars of a more peaceful world.
Pakistan's Emergency Rule Lifted, But GEO TV Still
By Medea Benjamin
GEO talk show host
Hamid Mir and GEO Director Imran Aslam with
Medea Benjamin in Karachi.
With only three weeks left until elections on
January 8, Pakistan's President Musharraf is trying
to set the stage for free and fair elections by
lifting the Emergency Rule he had imposed on November
3. While declared in the name of the war on terror,
the 42-day Emergency Rule was used to eviscerate
the judiciary by sacking independent judges and
replacing them with Musharraf supporters. It was
also used to crack down on the press, a press
that had become one of the few checks on the military
government. It's hard to consider the upcoming
elections as legitimate when two key democratic
institutions-the judiciary and the press-have
In the crackdown on the press, Musharraf did
not go after the print media, since just a small
fraction of Pakistanis read newspapers. Instead
he targeted TV and radio stations, closing them
down, beating journalists, seizing equipment.
To return to the air, the stations had to sign
a code of conduct promising not to broadcast anything
that "defames or brings into ridicule the
head of state or the military." Most of the
stations signed this under duress and resumed
broadcasting, but journalists all over the country
continue to protest the restrictions and the nation's
Press Clubs have become centers of anti-Musharraf
One TV station that has still not been allowed
back on the air is GEO, the nation's largest station.
The government has a particular vendetta against
GEO, closing not only its news channel, but also
its sports, entertainment and youth channels-costing
the station about $500,000 a day and jeopardizing
the livelihoods of some 2,500 employees.
Ironically, it is precisely under Musharraf's
rule that private television began to thrive in
Pakistan. The General was used to controlling
the airwaves through the state-run PTV, which
the public had dubbed with the slogan "On
PTV, seeing is not believing." People realized
that state-run TV was government propaganda, and
there was a thirst for independent TV outlets.
While the Arab world saw the blossoming of Al
Jazeera and other independent networks, Pakistan
saw the creation of GEO.
"The channel ran into problems from its
inception in 2002, as Musharraf tried to control
it," GEO TV's charismatic President Imran
Aslan recalled as he gave us a tour of the station's
sprawling headquarters in Karachi. At a meeting
with government officials in early 2002, the owner
of GEO, who heads a powerful media conglomerate
called The Jang Group, was informed that key members
of the GEO team were unacceptable. He was told
that if he hired a different crew, the station
could go forward. "But what the government
officials didn't know is that the owner had taped
the entire conversation," laughed Aslan.
"The next day we went straight to the Press
Club and played the tape. The government was so
embarrassed that it allowed GEO to go ahead."
The feisty station was launched in August 2002
with a talented team that innovated an all fronts,
not just the news. They revived sports that were
dying out-boxing, hockey, volleyball, football,
polo. Ignoring the threats of religious fundamentalists,
they televised marathons where men and women ran
together. On the youth channel, they had call-in
shows where young people from around the country
could say whatever they wanted, unedited, uncensored.
They changed the debate on women's rights, launching
a campaign to openly discuss Pakistan's controversial
rape laws that blame the victim, threatening her
with lashings or even stoning to death. Since
they were enforced by Zia ul Haq in 1979, these
laws have been regarded as untouchable for fear
of a backlash by powerful religious extremists.
GEO took the issue head on, and not from a more
obvious feminist perspective, but by airing debates
between religious leaders about whether these
practices were in conformance with Islam. The
debate, which included religious leaders labeling
these practices are un-Islamic and immoral, led
to the drafting of new laws more favorable to
But what landed GEO in hot water with the government
was their news show. "We would get Musharraf
and top government officials on our shows and
ask them tough questions," famed talk show
host Hamid Mir told us. "I asked Musharraf
how he could be President while on the payroll
as Army Chief, or how could he let Benazir Bhutto
back in the country but not Nawaz Sharif-questions
he found hard to answer."
GEO reporters and talk show hosts questioned
the army about missing people, about their tactics
fighting in Balochistan and the tribal areas.
They even pressed Benazir Bhutto so hard about
the assassination of her brother, questioning
how it happened under her rule, that she got up
and walked out in the middle of a show.
GEO brought irreverence and satire to the TV
screen with the hilarious animated cartoon called
"Pillow talk", which featured conversations
between Musharraf and Bush. Sometimes the two
leaders would be chatting in bed, with George
Bush wrapped up in a Mickey Mouse blanket.
"We alienated everyone, so I guess we did
our job," joked Imran Aslan. "We were
innovative, we pushed the limits, we had fun--and
the people loved us. In less than six years, we
had a lead of 8-9 points on other stations."
By closing the sports, youth and entertainment
channels, the government's goal is to cripple
the station financially. The head of GEO Sports
Channel Mohammad Ali had tried, unsuccessfully,
to petition the court to get the 24-hour sports
station reopened. "What does sports have
to do with the war on terror?", Ali asked
when we met him outside the Courthouse. "We
just lost $15 million dollars we had paid for
the right to broadcast the India-Pakistan cricket
match. The people were deprived of seeing a match
they love, and we are being ruined financially."
"This is just vindictive on the part of
the government; it's a blatant effort to put us
out of business," said Aslan after losing
the court case. "My biggest regret is that
the government is jeopardizing the livelihoods
of so many wonderful staff, who are among the
finest minds in this country."
With the upcoming elections, GEO had been poised
to play a major role. It had a campaign called
"You have the vote, don't' you?, " encouraging
people to exercise their right to vote. They had
anticipated airing debates, educating voters about
the views of the different parties and candidates,
and training young people all over the country
to report on the campaigns.
While the Bush Administration has been touting
the upcoming elections, it has been silent on
the continued silencing of GEO. It was not even
mentioned in the testimony of Assistant Secretary
of State Richard Boucher when he testified before
Congress on December 6 about continued aid to
Pakistan. Boucher admitted that democracy requires
not only elections "but accountable government
institutions, including a free and dynamic press."
But instead of using the opportunity to demand
that press restrictions be lifted, Boucher gave
the stunning conclusion that "Pakistan is
making progress toward these goals."
The U.S. government, which gives over $100 million
a month to Pakistan, should speak out forcefully
against the banning of GEO, and withhold U.S.
assistance until GEO is back on air. And when
assistance is resumed, a portion of our aid should
help GEO get on its feet financially.
An independent media is the backbone of a democratic
nation. If the US government is truly committed
to democracy in Pakistan, it should support GEO
and Pakistan's courageous journalists in their
struggle for a free press.
Medea Benjamin (email@example.com),
Cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange, and
CODEPINK activist Tighe Barry were kidnapped by
Pakistani government agents and deported on December
4 for supporting the democracy movement.
Deported at Gunpoint
by Pakistani Government,
By Medea Benjamin
our tenth day in Pakistan, my colleague Tighe
Barry and I, both human rights activists with
CODEPINK and Global
Exchange, were arrested at gunpoint by agents
of the Pakistani government. We had just left
a student rally and were driving down the streets
of Lahore with a car full of Pakistani journalists
and lawyers. Two cars and six motorbikes came
screeching up, blocked our car, piled out with
guns drawn, dragged the journalists and lawyers
out of the car, beat the bystanders, and hijacked
the car. With the two of us huddled in the back
surrounded by shouting police, our captors raced
at breakneck speed through the crowded streets
of Lahore. We had no idea why we were being abducted
or where we were headed.
The car pulled up to the
Race Course Police Station, where more police
threw open the gate and dragged us inside. Terrified,
we found ourselves in the office of a shady-looking
character in a running suit. He had on no badge
or ID, but behind his desk was a framed certificate
made out to Faizal Gulzar Awan, awarded by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. Great—he'd
been trained by the FBI. That made us even more
Our phone had been ringing non-stop, with our
friends desperate to find us. The police tried
to grab the phone from Tighe, but I snatched it
and stuck it down my shirt, assuming the Muslim
deference for women would keep them from attacking
me physically. I also pressed the answer button,
as a call was coming in. Infuriated, Mr. Awan
called in a policewoman to get the phone, who
pulled and shoved and pinched me, putting her
hand down my shirt while I screamed and held on
for dear life. All of that, we informed them,
was being recorded at the other end by our journalist
At that point, our captor Mr. Ijaz from the Special
Police Force, walked in, and the two of them switched
to the good cop mode. “Okay, okay,”
said Mr. Awan. “Let's all calm down.”
“Yes, yes,” Mr. Ijaz smiled. “Let's
all drink tea together.” They brought out
the tea, which we refused to drink, and tried
to talk small talk, asking us questions like “What
is your favorite Pakistani food?” and “What
is the weather like back in the United States?”
We refused to answer their questions and instead
insisted on talking to a lawyer or someone from
the US Consulate.
Finally, after making endless phone calls to
their superiors, they allowed us to call the Consulate.
We talked to the political officer, Antone Greuble,
who was well aware of the situation and said he
was on his way.
When we got off the phone, Mr. Awan shocked us
with his comment. “We
don't know why you were arrested,” he
said, “we are only carrying out orders from
high up. But I think your own government had a
hand in it because you embarrassed the Ambassador
when she was in town.” Just the day
before, when Ambassador Anne Patterson was holding
a press conference, we had confronted her about
the Bush administration's continued support
for Musharraf. Now we didn't know who to
fear more, Musharraf or our own government.
hours later, Mr. Grueble from the Consulate appeared
with two security agents. He said that Pakistani
government had canceled our visas (which were
valid for two more months). The government felt
we were engaging in seditious acts under the emergency
rules by showing up at rallies and by sitting
outside the home of detained lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan.
“Why didn't the government just warn
us that we were doing something wrong or nicely
ask us to come into the police station, instead
of terrorizing us?,” Tighe asked. “Because
this is Pakistan,” Greuble replied, condescendingly.
This is indeed Pakistan, but it is the Pakistan
of a Pervez Musharraf, a close U.S. ally who has
been receiving over $100 million a month of our
taxdollars. It is the Pakistan of a dictator posing
as a democrat, a general who took off his uniform
to please the West, but who remains the strongman
who runs the show. It is the Pakistan of Musharraf's
emergency rule, issued on November 3 in the name
of fighting terrorism but used to wage war on
the democratic forces of this country.
In our ten-day visit,
we met lawyers who had been brutally beaten and
thrown into prisons with rats and murderers. We
met judges who had dedicated their lives to the
rule of law, only to find themselves unceremoniously
thrown off the bench and even physically evicted
from their homes. We met students who had been
beaten with batons and face expulsion for participating
in pro-democracy rallies. We met journalists whose
programs had been yanked off the air and tossed
from their jobs for criticizing the government.
All this under the guise of the war on terror.
All this with the continued support of the U.S.
Back at our jail in Lahore, Mr. Greuble explained
our options. We could languish in jail for an
unknown period and then be deported, or we could
leave the country on the next available flight.
We “chose” the latter. We were released
under the care of the U.S. political officer,
who booked us on a flight the following day.
Before we left, we had a final goodbye gathering
with our newfound friends--the amazing group of
lawyers, journalists and students we had met at
rallies, vigils, debates. They apologized profusely
for the actions of their government; we apologized
profusely for our government's actions.
Reflecting on our ordeal
on the flight home, Tighe and I marveled at the
courage and determination of the Pakistani activists.
We left angry at the Pakistani government for
the way we were treated, but inspired and motivated
by the example of our Pakistani brothers and sisters.
December 2, 2007
Vigil Outside a “Sub-Jail”
By Medea Benjamin
soon as we arrived in Lahore, Pakistan on November
30, Tighe Barry and I—both human rights activists
from the United States—called the wife of the
most prominent lawyer in Pakistan today, Aitzaz
Ahsan. Ahsan is under house arrest, but his wife,
Bushra, invited us to come by their office the
The law office of Aitzaz Ahsan is connected to
his home. When we arrived, the building was surrounded
by 10 policemen. We entered the office and had
a long chat with Bushra. She told us that her
husband had been in jail for 21 days, and was
then placed under house arrest. He was not allowed
to leave the house, and visitors were not allowed
in. I asked her if we could try. She smiled and
escorted us to the door connecting the home and
sign on the door read “Sub-jail,”
and two officers were guarding the door. We greeted
them and asked to be allowed in. “We have come
all the way from the United States to meet Aitzaz
Ahsan,” I said politely. “Can we please meet with
him?” The jailors wouldn't budge.
Later in the day, about 60 members of Lahore's
civil society staged a rally outside the house.
Their signs read,
“Free Aitzaz Ahsan,” “Restore the Judiciary”,
“We want democracy.” They stayed
outside the house for about an hour, chanting
and singing. The crowd included lawyers in their
traditional black jackets, businessmen in their
suits, professional women in their colorful “shalwar
kamiz,” even several children. They were certainly
not a dangerous-looking crowd.
is Aitzaz Ahsan, who suddenly appeared on the
balcony to the delight of the protesters. He was
not allowed to speak to them, but he raised his
hand in a peace sign, and the crowd roared “Long
gray-haired, bespeckled Ahsan who is president
of the Supreme Court Bar Association, looks like
a mild-mannered professor but to President Musharraf,
he's a dangerous man. He defended the chief justice
of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry,
when Musharraf fired him back in March. Ahsan
won the battle, Chaudhry was reinstated, and Musharraf
That was just the
beginning. Ahsan, emboldened, took a case against
Musharraf up to the Supreme Court, arguing that
Musharraf could not legally be both president
and army chief. The court was
just about to decide the case when Musharraf clamped
down and imposed emergency rule on November 3.
While the pretext was the need to counter Islamic
militants, the government instead arrested thousands
of lawyers, journalists and members of civil society,
and fired the independent judges.
of those arrested have been released, but a few
key lawyers such as Ahsan remain in detention,
and the independent judges have not been reinstated.
That's why the demands of civil society are not
just to lift the emergency law, as Musharraf now
says he will do on December 16, but also to release
all those arrested, restore the independent judiciary
and restore freedom of the press. Most members
of civil society are calling for a boycott of
the elections until these conditions are met.
has taken off his uniform to please the West,
but he is still no democrat. In the past month,
his regime has shamefully beaten and jailed thousands
of this nation's best and brightest. Equally shameful
is the fact that the Bush administration continues
to back him, instead of backing the democratic
civil society struggling under his grip.
Aitzaz Ahsan is now a symbol in Pakistan of the
people's struggle for democracy. That's why we
decided to sit outside his door, his “subjail”,
in protest of his continued detention, in protest
of our government's backing of a dictator, and
most of all, in support of the Pakistani people.
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global
Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace. Benjamin
and CODEPINK activist Tighe Barry are staging
a 24-hour vigil outside the home of Aitzaz Ashan
in Lahore, Pakistan from December 2-3.. For more
information see www.codepinkalert.org.
November 27, Karachi,
Judges Get a Heroes'
Reception Medea Benjamin
The heroes in today's Pakistan are not the
returning former Prime Ministers—Benazir
Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif—but the Supreme Court
and High Court judges who refused to accept General
Musharraf's emergency law putting the Constitution
in abeyance. When asked to take a new oath pledging
to uphold his “Provisional Constitutional
Order”, they simply said no. While politicians
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are making deals
with Musharraf to get back into power, these judges
are putting principle over power. They may have
lost their seats on the bench, but they have won
the hearts of millions of Pakistanis.
We got to see a manifestation of this by accompanying
a group of activists in Karachi to the home of
one of the Sindh High Court Judges, Sarmad Jalal
Osmany. The judge was having a dinner party for
his colleagues who had also refused to take the
Codepink meets citizens of Pakistan who
are braving the conditions to raise their
voice against injustice. They explain what
the whole protest is about and who is the
"dream team" in most Pakistanis'
hearts. Credit: Tighe Barry
Arriving at the judge's home, the activists--an
odd assortment of students, small businessmen,
accountants, and journalists--ceremoniously carpeted
the entrance with rose petals. Armed with bouquets
of flowers, they crammed into the judge's
living room. One by one, as the judges arrived,
the group gave them a standing ovation. In all,
thirteen judges appeared. “It was thrilling
to be in their presence,” said one journalist. “We are so used to a tarnished
image of judges throughout our history who have
sold out to military regimes and corrupt governments.
Here was a group of judges who were putting the
interest of the nation above their self interest.
I couldn't believe my eyes.”
The flowers, each with the name of a particular
judge, were accompanied by a letter from the students
at the prestigious LUMS management school in Lahore.
A recent graduate had flown in from Lahore to
Karachi just for the occasion. The activists wiped
tears from their eyes as they watched the young
lawyer paying homage to the sacrifice of his elders
and read the moving letter that ended with a tribute:
“For your courage and resolve, for your steadfastness,
for your selflessness, we salute you. For carrying
on the struggle and showing all of Pakistan what
a principled stand really means, we congratulate
you. For giving us this glimmer of hope, this
tangible inspiration, this possibility of change,
we thank you.”
The activists said that in their homage to the
judges, they were representing the sentiment of
the majority of Pakistanis. “Even the flower
vendor where we bought the bouquets was moved,”
journalist Beena Sarwar told the judges. When
he found out who the flowers were for, he insisted
on sending a bouquet himself, ‘with love
to the judges.'”
Codepink is in Pakistan
to show peace and solidarity with its people.
A visit with some citizens who want the constitution
and the basic human rights restored.Credit:
The group spent about an hour chatting with the
judges, with much laughter and good-hearted banter.
It was a rare scene, since judges normally lead
very secluded lives because of the nature of their
work. They told stories about being put under
house arrest after the emergency law was declared
on November 3. And they talked with pride about
the fact that most of the judges—at both
the Supreme Court and the provincial Sindh High
Court—refused to take the oath. At the Supreme
Court, only 5 of the 17 judges went along with
Musharraf's emergency measures.
With the future uncertain, the judges have no
idea whether they will ever be able to retake
their positions. But the goal of the legal community
and their supporters is to pressure the government
to restore the Constitution and reinstate the
“Restoring the Constitution and reinstating
these judges to the highest courts in the land
is more important than elections,” said attorney
Tammy Haque. “An independent judiciary is
the basis for a democratic state. Without it,
you can have all the elections you want, but you
won't have a democracy.”
Police forcefully stopped silent protestors
who were simply holding banners. Due to intervention
by some senior citizens, arrests were avoided.
Police has been quite brutal recently
in silencing peaceful calls for restoring
the constitution and upholding the rule of
law. Credit: Tighe Barry
Day One: Karachi, Pakistan,
Sunday, November 25
Let me introduce you to a flash
demonstration, Karachi-style. Since the police
have been rounding up and jailing people protesting
General Musarraf's imposition of martial law on
November 3, one of the new tactics is a "flash
mob." Today, people gathered along the
waterfront at the McDonalds (yes, they hate gathering
at McDonalds, but it's a good landmark with a
parking lot). The group was small--about 25 people--but
they were men and women, young and old. Some women
even brought their children. They were well-dressed,
well-educated, English-speaking professionals.
Most had never participated in a protest before
martial law was declared, but they were quickly
becoming seasoned activists.
They were delighted that US activists had come
to show support. Tighe and I interviewed several
of them on camera before the action started. One
of the women was a journalist who insisted that
journalists must shed the pretense of “objectivity.”
When the government starts censoring the press,
she said, it's time for all journalists to
take a stand. Another women in her 50s was a public
health worker who bemoaned the fact that she could
not motivate more of her colleagues—doctors,
nurses, social workers, teachers—to join
the movement. “The lawyers in this country
are really the only organized professional sector
that is standing up to Musharraf,” she
said. “It's understandable that the
poor who are struggling everyday to survive cannot
afford to protest. But the other professionals
should be out here with us. And the political
parties, the ones who can really mobilize large
numbers of people, should be taking the lead.
But they are too busy jockeying for power so it's
up to us, the civil society, to lead.”
The group, holding a few banners and posters
(one said, in English: “This revolution will
not be televised”, referred to the closing
of TV stations), began walking along the sidewalk
that borders the beach. Part of the action was
to quickly spray paint the sidewalk and walls
with anti-government slogans. "Most people
in Karachi are poor," a young man said, “they
can't even afford to buy a newspaper. So writing
on the public spaces is a good way to get the
word out." They also engaged the people
walking and driving by, handing out leaflets calling
on the government to release jailed activists
and reinstate democratic rule. When a crowd had
gathered around, one of the women began to give
a speech in Urdu. She was not your typical revolutionary--in
fact, this young, beautifully dressed woman worked
in a bank. But she was passionate about the need
to restore the rule of law and drew applause from
she was talking, you could hear the siren of a
police car pulling up. You might think that
the group would have dispersed immediately (the
women with children did), but most people stayed.
One young man who was with the group kept filming
as the police approached and started yelling at
the crowd to disperse. The police didn't
like that, and two of them tried to grab his video
camera and threatened to arrest him. Two women
immediately intervened, trying to calm the police.
They escorted the man to his car, but the police
blocked the car. One of the policemen, toting
a Kalashnikov, also approached Tighe and wanted
his video camera. He started grabbing Tighe's
hand, trying to pull him to the police car. Tighe,
playing dumb, kept repeating that he was just
a tourist, while I grabbed the camera and put
it in my purse. The policeman let Tighe go, but
the standoff continued with the other man.
So the women huddled and came up with a plan
to all jump in the car. “The police are
less likely to arrest him if he is surrounded
by women,” they reasoned. So five of
us, including me (a foreigner was even better
protection), squeezed into the car. And sure enough,
it worked. They police, exasperated, finally told
him to go.
the group met in a local café to “debrief.”
The man who almost got arrested was giving high
fives to the women. I asked him if he was scared
and he shrugged. “I've seen so many
others get arrested in these last few weeks,”
he said, “I thought it was my turn.”
I asked him what he did for a living. “I'm
a dentist,” he laughed, “so perhaps
my arrest would have gotten some of my colleague
out on the streets.”
The group made some decisions for future actions:
When the police threaten us, the men should leave
and the women should stay because the police have
a harder time roughing up women. If one person
gets arrested, they should all go with him or
her. Next action, tomorrow at the Press Club.
And so it goes here in Pakistan, where lawyers,
bank tellers, journalists—and dentists--are
taking on a US-backed dictator.
November 23, the day
Don't Buy Bush's War demonstration in D.C.
Human rights activist Tighe Barry and I are on
our way to Pakistan today. It's a bit of a trek--leaving
from New York to Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates),
where we have an 11-hour layover, then on to Karachi
for a week, then Lahore and perhaps Islamabad.
This is the beginning of what we hope will be
an on-going presence of US human rights observers
in Pakistan until the elections are scheduled
to take place in January.
We've been very troubled by the state of affairs
since General Musharraf imposed martial law on
November 3. Under the guise of the war on terrorism,
he has jailed thousands of lawyers, human rights
advocates and opposition leaders. Some have
been released, but many remain in prison or under
house arrest. He sacked the Supreme Court and
then stacked it with his own judges, thereby wiping
out an independent judiciary. And he clamped down
on the press, closing several stations and restricting
So we are going to learn more about the situation,
hoping to interview the lawyers and activists
who have been victimized by the crackdown. We'll
get their stories and learn how we can be of support
as they take great risks to bring the rule of
law back to their country.
With the US government shoring up Musharraf
and continuing to give millions of our taxdollars
to his regime every month, we in the US have a
great responsibility toward the people of Pakistan.
That's why this trip--and hopefully the subsequent
delegations--are so important.
The Pink Police were on the job, sealing off a crime scene at the RNC. The Republican National Committee headquarters heard the message of "Accomplices to war crimes! War criminals!" A cease and desist order was given to stop obstructing democracy. Our police force will continue to work this case.
On the eve of the closing of the first ever US Social Forum in Atlanta,
CODEPINK hosted a reception in the Peace
and Justice Tent. We raised our glasses in a toast to the historic gathering
and the wonderful activists from around the country. We belted out “Ain't
gonna study war no more” and other peace songs in three-part harmony.
We laughed raucously as we enjoyed each other's company. And we closed
with a congo line that snaked out of the tent. Suddenly, while basking
in the warmth of the camaraderie, I felt someone's hand smashing
into my face. It was so quick I didn't have time to even close my
eyes. With goo dripping down by face and my eyes burning, I realized I
had been “pied.” I invite you to see the photos and video that
my attackers posted online.
You'll see how our merrymaking was spoiled by not-so-merry pranksters
guilty of a pie-by hit and run.
It's particularly odd that this group of pie-slingers chose the
Social Forum for their attack. The first ever Social Forum in the United
States was supposed to be a place to grow our movement, to build unity,
to respect differences, to embrace each other. These Bay Area Bakers could
have spent their time meeting Katrina survivors from the Gulf, homeless
advocates from Atlanta, immigrant rights leaders from Chicago or attending
some of the 900 workshops being offered. Instead they spent their time
plotting an attack against someone with whom they probably agree on 90
percent of the issues. The organizers of the forum, seeing the incident
as both an individual assault and an assault on the very principles of
the forum, publicly denounced the attack during one of the main plenaries.
you might ask, why was I targeted? While the pie-throwers fled the scene
of the crime, they did leave behind leaflets. I am, they say, “a
self-appointed ‘spokesperson' whose actions further the commodification
of resistance and sabotage our movement's sustainability and credibility.
This person's actions benefit the NGO Industrial Complex at the expense
of real democracy and solidarity.” That's a mouthful from these
self-appointed critics, judges and prosecutors. But it actually sounds
like good fodder for a healthy debate. Instead of a “pie-by”,
they could have dropped by any of the five open workshops where I was
speaking and we could have had a great discussion. Or they could have
easily found me at the Global Exchange or CODEPINK
tables where I was hanging out for days, chatting with anyone who wanted
But the pie-flingers were not interested in fruitful dialogue, but tasteless
condemnations. Their leaflet went on to say:
1. I sided with police and municipal authorities against direct actions
performed at the World Trade Organization protests of 1999 (Truth: I disagreed
with the tactic of smashing windows and helped gather an activist clean-up
crew to show our goodwill to the people of Seattle. And after eight years,
this grudge is mighty stale!)
2. My organization Global Exchange hordes funds raised for community
organizations in Guatemala (Huh? I have no idea what this one means. We
promote fair trade and have helped channel millions of dollars to producers
all over the world, including Guatemala. See http://www.globalexchange.org)
3. Global Exchange solicited the economic dependency of residents in
Cuba and then abandoned the project, pushing the Cuban participants deeper
into poverty. (Truth: We have organized hundreds of people-to-people delegations
to Cuba, and even with the Bush administration coming down on us, we still
take groups to Cuba to build ties of friendship.)
4. I publicly refused to endorse a call for Israel to unconditionally
withdraw from Southern Lebanon in the 2006 war. (Truth: I always called
for unconditional withdrawal, and even went to Lebanon in the midst of
the bombing to show my commitment to an immediate ceasefire.)
been involved in the movement for social justice for almost 40 years now,
I've developed thick skin after facing so many attacks from hateful,
violent people. Whenever I appear on TV shows such as Hannity and Colmes
or Bill O'Reilly, I receive vicious messages on my phone and threatening
emails that scare my children and anger my husband with their variations
on the theme of “Die, you ugly, communist, lesbian, American-hating
bitch.” I have learned over the years that attacks come with the
territory—but it does take me by surprise (and hurt the most) when
the attacks come from the left instead of the right, from people who are
supposed to be your allies.
Years back, I remember reading with amusement about the Biotic Baking
Brigade that roamed the world flinging pies in the face of the “upper
crust”—people deemed responsible for corporate crimes. These
included the CEOs of Monsanto, Novartis, Chevron and ENRON. In fact, I
had organized a protest against ENRON CEO Jeffrey Skilling in San Francisco
when a young woman in the audience threw a pie in his face. It was an
act of “speaking pie to power,” she said.
But while a pie in the face of the ENRON crook might seem like just desserts,
other targets the brigade chose were half-baked. Ralph Nader was pied
while at a San Francisco press conference supporting a Green Party candidate
for Governor. Sierra Club Director Carl Pope was pied for supposedly supporting
legislation that would increase logging in California—a bill the
Sierra Club actually opposed. And then all sorts of random people were
pied—filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, artist Andy Warhol, singer Kenny
Rogers, Jimmy Carter's brother Billy. With no quality control, the
Biotic Baking Brigade had become the Myopic Baking Brigade.
The problem was not just who was getting creamed, but the creaming itself.
Sure, pie-throwing can be good natured—like at a fundraiser at a
county fair or a college food fight. It can also be hilarious, like the
slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges or Charley Chaplin. But when done
with malice, it can easily turn sour. I remember a nasty episode when
San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was pied by three people who held him
responsible for policies that created more homelessness. One of the culprits
was our friend Justin Gross. Justin was a sweet, gentle soul who cooked
us vegan lunches once a week at Global Exchange and worked with Food Not
Bombs. The mayor was hurt in the assault, and when the “piers”
were tackled to the ground by security, one of them broke her clavicle.
Justin was sentenced to six months in jail for battery.
When Sierra Club Director Carl Pope was pied, the tofu in the cream didn't
mollify him. “The pie has nothing to do with it,” Pope said
bitterly. “It's the fist behind the pie. It's like being
Now I know exactly what he meant. I often thought that if I was pied,
I'd laugh it off. Big deal. A bit of cream in the face. But it felt
like a punch in the sucker. It felt very violent. In fact, I am still
shell-shocked. When people I don't know approach me to say hello,
I flinch and brace myself for a beating.
In the wake of the assault with a high-caloric weapon, I could have followed
the footsteps of Willie Brown or Ann Coulter by pressing charges. I'd
have a great case, because I have on videotape both the successful pieing
and an unsuccessful and even more violent attempt hours earlier. But I
wouldn't do that. Why? I actually feel sorry for people who harbor
so much resentment and come from a place of such anger. Perhaps these
pie-throwers are wounded people who lack the essential ingredients of
a fulfilling life—a supportive family and community that provides
a healthy dosage of love.
I feel the love from my wonderful husband and two daughters. I feel the
love from my colleagues at Global Exchange, where we've built an
organization with 40 staff whose lives are dedicated to transforming the
world for the better. I feel it from my sisters at CODEPINK, which now
has 150,000 supporters, 250 local chapters, and a house in DC that serves
as a hub of anti-war activism and a place that empowers new activists
That's my recipe for not only a healthy life, but my contribution
to changing our world. I ask the pie-throwers, what's yours?
Instead of packing a punch, why not come over for lunch? Let's swap
our recipes for change. And I'd be happy to bake you the dessert
of your choice. May I suggest humble pie?
Medea Benjamin, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK
is accessible, even to pie-throwers, at medea [at] globalexchange.org.
If someone were to walk up to you, push you and you lost your balance and fell to the ground, would you get up, look that person in the eyes and ask, "why did you do that?" or would you get up and push that person back? Hilary, don't push back anymore, ask those persons who were the cause of this war, "why did they want this war?"
Lets stop pushing and shoving, lets stop with the lies, the blame game and take action.
Hilary, we are counting on you, as we know you have peace in your heart. Put peace back into the equation.
Hillary: I've heard it said over and over, "People either despise or adore Hillary Clinton, there's no middle ground."
I , personally, disagree. I have never really felt one way or the other about you. I keep waiting to see who you really are. What do you truly want to stand for?
Its obvious, you are intelligent, you are brave-but then what are you willing to risk everything for. You may well be defeated, but what is worth the risk? If not PEACE then what? Oh yes, we all know its complicated, and if we keep this war going it will become more complicated. We must face the fact that we are creating more and more terrorists as more and more innocents die each day. More and more money is wasted and more and more lives are broken.
The time is now- all time is now, help bring us out of this darkness! For the sake of the world- be a beacon of PEACE Hillary. Stop fluctuating- decide what your life's true mission is. What do you stand for ?
It is of the utmost importance that you become president in 2008. Young girls and women the world over are looking to you for guidance, leadership, and inspiration. Your support of Bush's War can only be detrimental to your campaign. I urge you to please rethink your position on the matter. The war has proved fruitless for nearly five years, let us not waste another five years or thousands more troops for a cause that no longer serves a purpose (and maybe never had).
Again, I urge you to reconsider your position on the War on Iraq. Today and tomorrow's women are counting on you.
When evaluating opposing arguments, we need to take into account the vested interests of the arguers (I wish this were taught in schools!).
If the side denying global warming is made up of oil companies, and the side asserting global warming is made up of scientists, we might well decide that the scientists are likely to be impartial, while the oil companies are likely to be biased.
The argument over Iraq's putative weapons of mass destruction had the Bush administration, on one hand, claiming these weapons existed, and people like Scott Ritter, Hans Blix and Middle East scholars, on the other hand, doubting that Saddam Hussein indeed had such weapons.
There were hundreds of thousands of people across the country who looked at the neocons' pro-war proclivities, their manipulative language (deliberately confusing Iraq with 9/11), Bush's lackluster presidency, his demonstrated lack of integrity, etc., and rejected their arguments.
How come we were right and almost everyone in Congress was wrong? Either our elected representatives were incapable of evaluating specious arguments, or they were suspicious of the Bushies but felt it would be political suicide to vote No. Neither option would seem to qualify someone to hold such a responsible office.
When Kerry or Edwards says his vote was a mistake, it's still not clear which of my two options he is copping to.
But you can't even manage to say that. Each time I hear the clip of you saying, "If I had known then what I know now..." my response is, "Why didn't you know? And if you couldn't even suspect you were being lied to, why would I want someone so clueless as President?"
Posted by Robert John White, Esq. on March 14th, 2007
The fallacious pretext for the invasion of Iraq was a purported cache of weapons of mass destruction. You, of all people, should have seen through the idiocy of that idea following your 8 years as first lady and access to unlimited intelligence reporting as a Senator. There were no such weapons then and there are none now, thus the pretext self-destructed.
Why are we there? To build "democracy" with an occupational army, the largest constructed foreign embassy in known history, and a system of airstrips intended to move attack vehicles into militarily strategic locations to wreak more havoc on the poor souls in the mideast. And to what American interest, I might add? The Jews security in the region? They have a military second in repugnancy only to ours and an equally bereft national will-they can fend for themselves, as they should. Nation building after its utter destruction without pretext? Only Halliburton and its abettors can buy that one, surely not the Iraqis. Could it be oil, perhaps? Ah, the pulse quickens.
Bush, Cheney, Condominium Rice and the entirety of the neocons are subhumans that don't understand that kinder and gentler murder is murder indeed and no better than the other.
Crossing international boundaries without pretext to plunder a nation's people and assets is a violation of every international and domestic law on the subject. It mandates impeachment and prosecution for crimes against humanity and if you cannot see it, do not understand it, or lack the courage to demand it, then step aside and raise more money to advance your crawl toward the destruction of America and its rebirth as USA, Inc.
Today Rep. Dennis Kucinich defied Speaker Nancy Pelosi and put the Impeachment of George W. Bush "on the table" where it urgently belongs. Kucinich said,
"This week the House Appropriations committee removed language from the Iraq war funding bill requiring the Administration, under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, to seek permission before it launched an attack against Iran. Since war with Iran is an option of this Administration and since such war is patently illegal, then impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran."
I think it can now be safely said that this administration is completely out of control and no longer even pretends to represent the best interests of the majority of the people of the United States of America. From obviously immoral meddling with the judiciary branch, to corrupt dealings with contractors that led to an intolerable deterioration in care for our wounded military, to the defiant increase in military action during a time when our economy is clearly unstable - this administration refuses to hear the voice of the people and continues to waste billions of dollars and cause needless death and destruction. The outing of a CIA operative because her husband wouldn't play ball. Warrantless wiretapping from the NSA. Mismanaged surveillance from the FBI. Torture. Lies. Theft. No branch of our federal government, not one governmental agency has escaped the touch of this administration's corruption. Honestly, what ELSE has to happen to convince this country that this administration is the out-of-control engine on a downbound train? What's it going to take? What new horror has to come to light before action is finally taken?
Hillary, please - you and Senator Schumer surely know after the recent issues with the Department of Justice that you have got to start looking at impeachment as a serious option. Both of you are powerful leaders and if you speak out on this matter it will gather the strength to become effective. I implore you to familiarize yourselves with the movement toward impeachment that other members of the Senate and Congress are putting together and join them in this necessary effort of moral courage.
Senator Clinton, I truly would like to believe that you support peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately your actions and words last summer give me no comfort that you do. To jump immediately to the defense of Israel when it waged a vicious war and committed human rights violations against the Lebanese (with the blessings of America's weapons and power), and to support Israel in its outrageous and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinians, demonstrates that you are not independent of AIPAC.
I am sorely disappointed by your lack of balance and regard for Arab and Persian lives. Israel is in the wrong in its relationships in the Middle East, and there will never be peace until people in power, such as yourself, seek true justice for all and cease supporting without question states that behave unjustly - I include in their number not only Israel but also Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all of whom we prop up with taxpayer dollars but who operate as totalitarian states. Can you not see that the blind and fervent support of United States for Israel is exactly what has destabilized the entire area and created the terrorists who hate our country?
I ask you to move decisively to end the war in Iraq NOW, bring our troops home NOW (we will never 'win' this war and you should admit that you were in error in supporting it at all); this war has not only caused the deaths of thousands of our own soldiers, but also killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and made refugees of a hundred thousand more. And for what? The lives of Iraqi women and children have descended into a living hell because of this war. The number of terrorists created by this war who despise the United States has grown like a cancer. With this war in Iraq we have taken our eyes of the target in Afghanistan and enabled the Taliban, abuser of women's rights, to regain power supported by the opium trade. If you truly care about women and children in places beyond your own constituency, end this war now, not next year, but NOW!
Please end this illegal and horrible war. Bush took us into this war on a lie and so many have died. With all of Bush's crimes the attack on a country that had nothing to do with 911 and was no threat to the us, was the worst.
Just think how you would feel if your daughter was sent to war, and did not even have training or the equipment to protect herself. We are supposed to be the most powerful; country in the world and yet we are acting like a bully and are being hated around the world.
Let us be the country who leads in peace and helps countries instead of killing them.
We must impeach Bush before he and his cronies get us into a 3rd world war---then nothing will matter, not health care, not global warming,not poverty, not pandemic disease ---because we will all be dead
Bring our troops home and work for peace and restore our battered reputation around the world.
I will vote for the peace candidate and I believe we will all be safer.
Hillary you will be the first woman President in the USA, stop the war's, get our kids home.
Take better care of our Vet's.
Impeach Bush and Cheney.
We need a better world for our children, you can be one of the one's to give it to them. Enough is enough, it is time for you to take a hard stand and get things done.
We are counting on you.
I am a former Intern and supporter of yours. I cannot and will no longer support you until you take definitive action to stop this unjust war and vote to de-fund it.
While Congress continues to send a blank check to President Bush to continue the war my friends and peers are getting injured and dying in Iraq by the thousands.
We are also suffering at home, we are paying more for education than ever before, we are dying in the streets of San Francisco at a horrific rate, and suffering from the loss of social, after school and daycare programs.
I am so disappointed in you, Senator Clinton, for enabling such a flawed and unjust federal funding agenda.
We, young Americans, oppose this war at a higher rate than any other group…and Senator Clinton, young people will not support you until you listen to us.
I have been waiting my whole life to campaign for a woman for President. But I cannot support your campaign until you clearly shift your priorities and vote to de-fund the war and invest in the youth of this country.
I don't just want a woman president; I want a woman president who will stand for peace and justice for all people.
This past Friday,
February 23, Senator Hillary Clinton held a fundraiser in San Francisco
at the Sheraton Palace Hotel. San Franciscans who have spoken out
against the war repeatedly gathered outside the hotel for a rally
and press conference urging the New York senator and presidential
would-be to put action behind her words and end the Iraq war. About
30 demonstrators outside the hotel handed out flyers that read,
“Hillary Stop Funding War” and encouraged funders entering
the event to ask Hillary hard-hitting questions about her stance
on the war.
Meanwhile, five activists made their way into the private donors-only
event. Two hotel guests found their way to seats in the audience,
while three of us entered as “caterers.” When Hillary
began her talk, we unfurled large hot pink banners that read “Hillary
Stop Funding War” and “We Need a Peace President.”
Two of us were positioned behind Hillary, which made for some excellent
photos. A third was stage right, making it appear as though there
was a sea of pink popping up around the room. The security people
were slow to respond to us and finally took our banners and escorted
On my way out I stated
very loudly and passionately, “Hillary please stop funding
the war!” As I was shouting, a woman clocked me in the chin
and hooked her fingers into my mouth, grabbing at my jaw as if to
yank it off. I felt like I was being bridled. Stunned, I didn't
speak up to demand that she be identified and held by the police.
I was amazed that here in America supporters of a presidential candidate
could so easily assault someone with an opinion they don't
approve of, and a Democrat no less. I faced a similar response at
a Hillary engagement with the BAR Association in San Francisco about
a year ago—after holding up a banner, I was chocked by the
security official, and the audience members sitting within inches
of me did nothing to help me. The anger and aggression with which
people react to our actions still astounds me. It makes those with
contrary political opinions appear tenuous at best.
After we were taken out of the event, we were detained in a small
room for the remainder of the event, cited for “disrupting
a meeting,” and released. My interaction with the SFPD was
pretty calm and respectable, but not all the protesters had such
a smooth experience.
At the start of
the event, fundraiser host Susie Beale commented that she's
eager to see change in this country, and when she and another host
asked if the room was ready for a woman president, the crowd applauded
enthusiastically. I wanted to applaud too. I was raised with the
idea that I could grow up to be anything I wanted to be, and that
women could now choose their professions freely. “We don't
have to serve the boss coffee these days, so honey you be strong
and burst through that glass ceiling” was my mom's refrain.
I decided I would blast through the gender barriers in a space shuttle
as an astronaut, or stomp them out while tromping through the jungle
doing scientific research. So understandably, just like most gals
my age, I get psyched about the idea of a woman president. But I
want to see a president with values, and being a woman just isn't
enough to buy my vote. I want to vote for a peace candidate, someone
who is unafraid to take leadership to bring us out of Iraq, and
speaks out against any future aggression towards Iran.
Right now Hillary has the worst position on Iraq of any of the Democratic
presidential candidates. Her latest call for a phased withdrawal
with no end date is totally inadequate. Hillary's new legislation
puts a cap on troop levels, while units are already being deployed
to Iraq—the cow's out of the barn on that one—and
her proposal threatens to cut off funding to the Iraqis if their
government doesn't meet certain standards in six months—talk
about blaming the victim! Hillary said at the fundraiser on Friday,
as if responding to our earlier disruption, “Yes, we do have
to end the war in Iraq, and we have to do it as soon as we possibly
can!” Hillary, if this is what you believe in your heart, then
don't wait to be president to do something—act now to
bring our servicemen and women home and secure a better tomorrow
There may come a day when disrupting Hillary feels like shouting
at a brick wall, or George Bush. But for now, when Hillary is still
using the verb “listening” and is vulnerably vying for
the presidential nomination, I am still hopeful. And I'm hopeful
that Americans will keep pressuring the candidates to stand up for
peace, especially those who have the purse power to make or break
their campaigns. The bottom line to wealthy Democrats is this: Until
Hillary takes action in the Senate to responsibly end the Iraq occupation,
funding Hillary is funding war.
(which includes an interesting part about the Clintons' campaigning
tactics: “Unlike her husband, who famously strayed from his
lectern to roam audiences like Oprah Winfrey, Mrs. Clinton stays
largely static. Like a hitter in the batter's box, she stands, hands
clasped, pivoting only to take questions from audience members scattered
throughout the hall. Like her husband, however, she runs late --
23 minutes on Friday. Like Bush, the senator shook hands and took
pictures with the biggest donors behind closed doors.”
I had another one of those "Meanwhile in Baghdad"
moments when I turned on the TV today, my first day back home again in
Indiana from the front lines of the political war in Washington. CSPAN
is running video of hearings that are more than a month old while the
Mainstream Media is running live coverage of a hearing about, you guessed
it, Anna Nicole Smith. And I am baffled. They are airing live, in real
time, a hearing about what will happen with the remains of a person who
is famous for being famous, sending out national news alerts that the
Judge presiding over the hearing wept when he rendered his decision. Here's
the baffling part. For a solid month, activists and Women For Peace have
been in hearings in our nation's capital. Standing up, quite literally,
for our democracy, our rights as citizens and the human rights of others
all over the world. True, we did not have a gallon jug of methadone in
our refrigerator in the CODEPINK house on
Capital Hill--organic cheese and left over vegetarian soup are more our
speed. But we, too, have wept in hearings, and we also created quite a
ruckus on our last trip to a hotel.
the similarities begin and end, though. No one waited an inordinate amount
of time to call 911 for us. We could see the secret service out on Connecticut
Avenue counting up the six floors to pinpoint our location and put an
end to our partying. Our idea of fun was to drop a 40-foot pink
slip from the sixth floor of the 6 star Mayflower Hotel while George Bush
was speaking in a ballroom downstairs. Pink
slipping George was one of many highlights in a month filled with actions
and opportunities to work for Peace.
The past month
of living and working in D.C. with CODEPINK
has been an invaluable experience with many victories, both large and
small. The women of CODEPINK have experienced
both excitement and frustration at trying to move Congress to end this
war in Iraq and prevent another in Iran. As a small town, mid-western
woman with only a couple of years of activism under my belt, the leadership
and mentoring provided by all in CODEPINK
has been of incalculable worth. Seeing the determination on Medea Benjamin's
face each morning as we marched the eight blocks to the Capital through
the snow and ice that nearly shut down the city soothed any doubts I may
have had about our effectiveness. When Senators and Representatives thanked
us for our concern and for our participation in our democracy, all doubts
about propriety were dispelled. When Senate and House staffers followed
us to the cafeteria to thank us for speaking truth to power, all questions
about our effectiveness were quelled. When we were met on the street and
in restaurants and in hallways with smiles and "thumbs up" we
were encouraged to continue. It has been an exercise in, to reclaim verbiage
from the administration, "adapt to win".
the change over to Democratic Party Leadership in both the House and the
Senate, each day on the Hill offered challenges with dealing with Legislators
and finding the line with Capital Police. What was once arrestable is
sometimes no longer even chided. What was once unwelcome opinion and treated
as disrespectful behavior is now tolerated as part of the exercise of
free speech. Do not think that things have changed so much that the path
to peace will be a cake walk. It will not be. Congress will not step out
onto any limb until they know that not only will their grassroots break
their fall, but will grow to support the limb they have climbed out upon
and prevent it from cracking under the weight of the issues.
Despite resistance from Dems and Republicans alike, women have been fighting
valiantly in the war against the war, taking CODEPINK's
anti-war message from the curbside to Congress in a sustained non-violent
movement that has been picking up momentum and making a distinct difference
in our government's handling of war issues. Our pink
presence on the Hill has been a comfort to some, a thorn in the side to
others and a spur to those hanging politically somewhere in between. There
can be no doubt about our effectiveness, though. Whether we are attending
hearings, speaking out and being removed from those hearings, being arrested
in Congress or in Legislative offices, or executing actions that spark
the imagination and awareness of the public, the women of CodePINK
are at the forefront of the peace movement. The momentum gained from the
kick off of the occupation project must be sustained. The ground we have
gained in the halls of congress must be maintained. Fighting for it, standing
up is the only way peace and justice will be obtained.
I feel honored to have worked with so many who have given so much of
themselves to the movement, and look forward to my return to D.C.
You have portrayed yourself as a true humanitarian, supporting human rights of all people everywhere.
Surely you do not believe that this war with Iraq is humane, nor supportive of all people.
Buckle up, stiffen your spine, and tell the current resident of the White House that you will NOT support his insistence upon increasing the number of troops sent to kill and be killed in this senseless war.
You've got it in you Dear Lady, listen to the voices of those who want to support you in 2008.
As this situation in Iran is being 'created', I have gone from no faith in this administration, to darn right scared of this administration. I figured the public, the media, and the Congress would not stand for this kind of madness AGAIN, but this nightmare is coming true.
Hillary, On this day of LOVE I am asking that you imagine the mothers, sisters, and daughters that have lost loved ones and put yourself in their shoes. Can YOU be held responsible for one more death in Iraq? Afghanistan? and god forbid, IRAN?
Until you do, I cannot even consider you as a candidate for my President.
Act in Love,
I'M LUKE WARM SO FAR WITH YOUR CAMPAIGNE AND YOUR SOMEWHAT CENTRIST IDEAS! I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU AS OUR NEXT PRESIDENT, BRILLENT, A WOMAN AND CAPABLE TO RUN THIS COUNTRY BUT YOU HAVE NOT CONVINCED ME AS YET. I STILL SEE AL GORE AS THE NEXT STATESMAN OF OUR WORLD WITH HIS BRAVE FILMING OF GLOBAL WARMING,AS MUCH OR A MORE MAJOR ISSUE AS THE WAR IN IRAQ AND THE POTENTIAL WAR IN IRAN.
PLEASE ENCOURAGE NEGIGOATIONS TO BEGIN BETWEEN THE "ROGUE" COUNTRIES. STEP UP THE NEED FOR ALTERNATIVE ENERGY AND HELP PEOPLE SEE THE DANGERS OF GLOBAL WARMING. ENCOURAGE THE MEDIA TO WRITE THE TRUTH AND NOT EXPRESS THE PROPAGANDA OF OUR ADMINISTRATION TOWARDS IRAN.
BE BRAVE AND GUTTSY AND SHOW YOUR CONCERN FOR THIS GREAT COUNTRY AND OUR WORLD!
Let's talk amongst ourselves . . .
Today's headlines include a story about eight Kurdish PESHMERGA being targetted by the U.S. At least five were killed by what is known by the oxymoron, "friendly fire". . . How devastating,
yet it is one of the most hideous characteristics
about war and that is, "the first casualty of war is: the TRUTH".
How much scandal and untruths will we unravel about this War in the years to come ? How many of our own troops were killed by their own comrades? How many committed suicide? How many more will contemplate suicide when faced with the inevitable mental anguish that accompanies War?
These are only a few questions that will haunt us in the future. In the meantime the debate of increasing the numbers of troops (the so-called SURGE) goes on.
Instead the discussion should be about how to
increase "the electrical surge" to the population of Iraq so the children can have warm baths for the first time in years. . . or their mothers and grandmothers can wash their clothes and hang them outside to dry in the sun.
Yes the sun . . . all of ours' . . . SUN.
Does our Planet even have a future?
I don't remember the Clintons talking. . . let alone showing any support to Al Gore when he tried valiantly to prove that he indeed HAD won the election against G Dubya. Apparently there had been some sort of "falling out" between the Clintons and the Gores. Al Gore is seriously demonstrating his concern about our environmental problems. Can we even BEGIN to imagine the utter
waste in fuel that this War has cost ? It boggles
the mind. . . The original predictions and supposed funding "requests" for Bush's War were
in the single digit millions and now the costs are reaching triple digit billions. That is not to speak of the untold costs that will follow for years and years to come.
Undoubtedly someone believes that it WAS and will be WORTH it in oil revenues. Who is this someone . . .or who are these "somebodies" ?
The general population of Iraq has suffered and is suffering inordinant hardship. The various and
innumerable ethnic identities, factions and tribes
have probably regrouped a dozen times by now. The Bush Administration succeeded in creating CHAOS. What can arise out of such chaos?
I read & heard on the news that Chelsea Clinton sat next to Condaleeza Rice at Gerald Ford's Funeral. If Hillary were to be elected President do you think she'd appoint "Condie" to be a liason between the Political Parties? Or maybe
Ms. Rice should run for Vice-President alongside
Hillary, on the same ticket. As far as I'm concerned, both are high-energy "WAR APOLOGISTS"
One wonders if once people in power get "a taste" for power they become irrevocably corrupt?
Let's talk. . . let's chat.
Posted by Siobhan Higgins Kolar on February 8th, 2007
Is it wish fulfillment or just cowardice--Hillary saying the war will have to be decided by the NEXT president (nod, nod, wink, wink).
We've heard Emanuel says "if we're still at war in 2008 we'll win!"
We don't need "winners" but leaders--people to do what's right and take the heat. How much heat can there be when more than 60% of voters want THE WAR TO END.
Can Hillary really expect us to believe she bought the bad intelligence with her "YES" vote to authorize force in Iraq?
Hillary--mothers and fathers, wives, husbands--here, in Iraq--are tired of watching death destroy their lives and the horrors that are attendant upon the war in Iraq--sickness, mass emigration, unemployment, constant violence, lives forever altered. What kind of person, much less leader, much less "president" --says hold on until I win.Why are their lives less important than your "win"--?? And why are you so afraid that you won't be able to lead and win???
Now Hillary sometimes describes herself as a mom-and she has every right to. Mothers certainly don't have the lock on compassion but isn't compassionate liberalism what she has always tried to bring to the table? NOT on the war--that's for sure.
Hillary, do us a favor--stick with the truth & the right "image"--cynical political insider--we get it--you're in it & in it "to win" no matter who gets hurt or dies.
Don't draw the MOM card unless you are willing to face Cindy Sheehan and all the other Gold Star moms and dads and tell them you (actually DO) care, you care more about the lives lost now and in the next 2 years, than winning--because if you don't you're going to lose more than just the election (or you already have).
Dear Senator Rodham-Clinton,
I hear you want to run for President... ? What an awesome responsibility that would be! All the little girls in the United States of America would see our first woman become President. Your own daughter would see her mother become the Commander-in-Chief. Your husband, would become the First Gentleman of the White House.
Is it mere ambition or do you miss your old house in Washington D.C. ? Maybe you were wondering how your remodelling projects held up in the Bush Administration ? I remember it was said that you could feel Eleanor Roosevelt's presence in the great halls of that big White House on the Hill.
What would Eleanor have said about your vote to go to an Unjust WAR ?
There were so many of us (in the thousands) protesting the decision to go to WAR. Not only were we marching in all the cities of America but the Europeans, Canadians, and Australians came out "en masse" in the weeks before the U.S.
CONGRESS allowed the "unduly-elected" President to go HEAD-On into a war that
had no parammeters and no Constitutional justification.
We, the people, and we, the WOMEN of America DEMAND representation. WE do not want demi-gods. We do not want egocentric elitists dismissing us as too stupid to know what's going on. We need leaders who are intelligent and strong enough to do THE RIGHT THING even when that may necessitate going against "GROUP THINK". Have you forgotten what true feminists believe? WAR is NOT & WAS NOT the answer. We are now facing collossal problems that will take decades and trillions in dollars to rectify. How can we consider you up to the task when you betrayed us and rallied to WAR along with most members of Congress. You didn't even stand by your Black female colleagues as seen in Michael Moore's documentary as one by one they were silenced when they opposed the plan to go to war . . .
I for one, unfortunately, will not be able to support you in your canidacy . . . instead I will probably support Barak Obama.
Thank you for your efforts. You, as so many career-politicians do; let us down.
It's time for REAL CHANGE. We need a Statesman and a truely diplomatic personage to lead us back into the Twenty-First Century.
Posted by Alice Slater et al on February 7th, 2007
Letter to Hillary from Alice Slater and the Women of CODEPINK
New York City Dear Senator Clinton,
We are encouraged to see that your position on the Iraq War is evolving:
from outright support, to criticism of how the war is being conducted,
to your latest stated opposition to the President's escalation of the
war. It is time to honor the results of the last election and the wishes
of the hundreds of thousands of people who marched on Washington on January
27th or the nearly 1,000 people that stayed through Monday the 29th to
lobby the Congress to exercise its Constitutional power of the purse and
cut off funding for the war. Just last week, you said that if you were
elected president, you would end the war in 2009.
But what are you doing right NOW to bring this war to an end?
A truly meaningful action would be to use your position as our Senator
and one of the most powerful Democrats in the government today to oppose
further funding for the disastrous war in Iraq by at the very least voting
against the 2007 Supplemental bill. We urge you to take a further step
in courage and leadership by joining your fellow legislators in the House
of Representatives, Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, and Lynne Woolsey and
submit a companion bill in the Senate to the bill they presented in the
House, HR 508.
LET THE WOMEN LEAD. By so doing, you would be jumpstarting support for
a practical measure that would achieve the wish of the majority of Americans
by bringing our troops home. We cannot wait for the next Administration
to end the Iraq war, but must take concrete, practical and effective steps
at the present moment. With your leadership, the people can be mobilized
to put pressure on the Congress to pass the legislation we need to bring
an orderly and compassionate end to this abominable war. Sincerely,
Alice Slater, Eva-Lee Baird, Jodie Evans, Anne Gibbons, Barbara Harris,
Jenny Heinz, Nancy Kricorian, and THE WOMEN OF CODEPINK NYC
THE WAR IN IRAQ:
The American people are against it.
Congress is against it.
The Iraqi people are against it.
The Iraqi government is against it.
George W. Bush is for it.
Can a single man force a nation to fight a war it does not want to fight?
If he can, is that nation no longer a democracy?
Dear Hillary, please listen:
You gave Mr. Bush the power to wage this illegal war, you now must rescind the power you have given him. Mr. Bush has lied to the American people, Mr. Bush has committed treason. Mr. Bush needs, together with Dick Cheney, be removed from office. Hillary, your husband Bill was impeached because he lied but no-one died. Mr. Bush lied, 3080 American Troops died and 650,000 Iraqis died; he is still in office, still waging war, still lying and leading America on the path of destruction. Do the honorable thing, Hillary, stand up for truth and justice take a pro-active stand.
STOP THE WAR - BRING THE TROOPS HOME -INITIATE THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS. You have fought for truth and justice, for childrens' rights and womens' rights, for civil rights and human rights your entire life. Don't stop now. Make America honorable again, make it the country again we promised our children.
Dear Hillary, please listen, do the right thing, do it now.
I am writing to you to ask you again to take a strong position against the war in Iraq and Iran.
Think of all the innocent people that are dying including women and children. I am sure that as a mother, you would not like to see your child in that position. Most people in the world know the the reason behind the war is oil that the US wants to keep under its control. Propaganda has not worked. Please, take consciousness and use your position to help and not destroy.
On the other hand, there is the situation of the economic embargo on Cuba. I am requesting and asking that this embargo be lifted as it is a violation of human rights to the self-determination of the peoples of the world. The same with the situation in venezuela. Intervene, so all the bullying against that nation can stop.
Posted by Cherie Thomas-Wood on February 5th, 2007
Hillary I firmly believe you are a person of character and as such you will champion to end this ludicris War and the Billions being spent to kill innocent Women, Children and American Soldiers. It would be Political suicide to do otherwise.
Hillary you have a once in a lifetime chance to be a Leader for Change. By spaeking out against the Iraq War and the terrible injustice of Killed American Soldiers.
You use to be my hero. I read your autobiograph and I was impressed by your commitment to the less fortunate. Today I saw you in front of the podiu at the AIPAC meeting. I was so disgusted to hear that you could even consider war with Iran after all the lies and the distaster that is Iraq. All these wars are destroying our country. Have you gotten so much of a celebrity that you've forgotten where you came from. I beg you to think back to the time when you had high ideals and believe in every person in this country deserving a home and health care and a decent wage. Every child deserves the chance to grow up to be whatever they want to be as long as they're willing to work hard.
I know so many children who won't be going to college becaue they can't afford it and have no one to co-sign for loan. These basic goals can not be accomplished by hard working people with two wars going on. Another war will destroy this country. It will be the last straw. Being a woman should make you more away that things can be solved in peaceful ways. Today my students were studying about Native Americans and the game of Lacrosse. Did you know that some of the Native American tribes would solve dispute by playing Lacrosse and the winner of the game, won the dispute. To this one of my students commented that why can't our countries still do that and then her Daddy could come from the war. The idea is a bit simplistic but the point is we need to always find another way. Shame on you that you can't be creative enough to find other ways. Go back to your roots and help people in need so you can remember how you started out to help this country and not play the game of politics.
You are my hero, I have admired you for the longest time time as a strong woman who has faced challenges with your head high and your integrity intact. I would be the first to cast my vote for you for President..but I must first ask you to take a clear stance on ending this meaningless and futile war, and bring our troops home. There can be no middle ground on this issue....too many have given their lives, and too many are still at risk and nothing has been gained. There were no WMD , we knew it, you knew it, they knew it, lets stop the pretension and make a stand for PEACE. I will be watching and listening...I hope you are listening too.
Clinical Social Worker, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and proud but concerned American
Fox News and NPR"s On the Media reported on a story of Joshua Sparling, an Iraq vet who got a lot of airtime claiming he was spit on at the DC protest- I saw Colonel Ann Wright speak to Joshua at the CP rally and she not only honored him but thanked him for his service- we are indeed women of peace-too bad this story hasn't been reported.
Email sent to NPR 's On the Media show today-
As a folklorist who studies urban legends, I was thrilled that "On the Media" spoke with Jerry Lemke who has actually researched whether veterans were spit on after the Vietnam war, but I think you missed a major piece of the story about Joshua Sparling- I was holding a banner near the Code Pink rally stage in DC where Sparling claims he was spit on- he was extremely agitated and yelling at each speaker- I watched as Colonel Ann Wright, a former US diplomat (and one of the highest ranking women who has come out against the war) who resigned over the Iraq war gently went up to Sparling, put her arm around him and listened to him- she showed her skills as a diplomat and her ability to speak truth to a veteran -not only did Sparling stop screaming at the speakers, but Colonel Wright introduced him from the stage and thanked him for his service-for which he was applauded by the crowd (all of us anti war protesters appauding a vet-how about that) if you check the transcripts from Sparling's interview on FOX news, he actually mentioned that Code Pink allowed him to speak but he forgot to mention that he was applauded- I did not see any one spit at him or treat him with anything but respect- I agree with Lemke that these veterans share a frustration and sorrow (not to mention anger) with Vietnam vets who came back from service to find that they had fought in an unpopular war- their belief system makes it easier to be angry at anti war protestors than at the commander in chief who lied to them in the first place.
Third Planet Report--Voices from the streets of Washington DC Peace March January 27, 2007 including an electrifying interview with former 27 year old CIA analyst Ray McGovern--an insider's view of Bates, Cheney and Bush. Also Interviewed were members of Farms Not Arms, New Orleans Voices For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Not In Our Name, and Code Pink and citizens and residence of the Untied States.
When your husband ran for president I was mildly excited at first - having a few reservations that he might be too centrist for my taste. As the campaign progressed, I got more hopeful. His intelligence and charisma got to me. Then I was impressed by a number of his appointments (like Robert Reich) and I became even more hopeful. As his first term progressed, he began to sell out - to cave to the Republicans, and to display somewhat "hawkish" tendencies with military engagement in such areas as Somalia, the Balkans, and in continuing to bomb Iraq, as continuation of Bush I's debacle. I was disappointed. When Monica-Gate happened, I thought it was really tacky, and terrible (for you), but not impeachable. In short, what we have now is far, far worse - but his presidency could have been so, so much better! Now that he's out of office, he's doing terrific things - in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter (whom I admire immensely).
I am not saying that you are a "clone" of your husband. I know that you are a distinctly different person, but I have seen you go from someone who speaks her mind and fights for just causes (ie. the Children's Defense Fund) to a "waffler" who's more interested in getting elected and staying elected than she is in actually doing something positive. How sad!
I even thought that you'd be a wonderful senator - that you'd really "kick some butt," however, what you did was to not take a stand on anything controversial, so that you could advance your career.
I am simply dismayed that you voted for the war, and continued to support your decision to have done so. John Edwards and John Kerry had the integrity to admit that they made a mistake. Bravo for them. You continue to hedge, so as not to offend anyone.
Well, I for one, am not fooled. You are a hawk, and a woman - which is a bad combination. You seem to have to prove that you are as tough as a man, which could prove dangerous in matters of national security and foreign policy. I would love to be able to vote for a woman president - but you, Hillary, are not courageous enough to declare where you stand. Because of your waffling, I cannot infer anything other than that you are not progressive enough to get us out of Iraq and to keep the US from continuing our "empire-building" agressive military policies - which is what is fueling terrorism. I am not justifying terrorism AT ALL, mind you, but saying there are reactions that do occur - no matter how evil and/or irrational they are - from our actions. Diplomacy and de-escalation are the only ways to reduce terrorist threats at home and abroad, and I am not confident that you would pursue such a course.
One ray of hope - you do seem to be swayed by public opinion, due to your drive to win the presidency. If you feel that more than 70% of us believe this war is wrong (now at least), then perhaps you will do the right thing. Can you assure us that you will do the right thing, even if it is just to get elected and stay elected? I don't care how you feel in your heart, so long as you uphold the will of the people. You'll need to make a pledge with the American people and keep it - to turn the tide for peace and against terrorism by building relationships, not by destroying countries (with bombs and wars) and making more enemies around the world.
Don't sacrifice more lives of US troops and Iraqis for the sake of politics!
Posted by LARIANE KELLERMEYER on February 2nd, 2007
THIS WEEK A GREAT VOICE WAS SILENCED. MOLLY IVINS LOVED THIS COUNTRY BUT HAD A PROBLEM WITH YOU. PLEASE..MAKE HER EFFORTS WORTH IT AND PROVE TO HER AND US THAT YOU CAN AND WILL DO RIGHT BY US. TAKE A DEEP BREATH..TAKE NAMES AND KICK SOME BUTTS. I ADMIRED MOLLY IVINS AND HER WRITINGS WILL BE MISSED BY ALL OF US. TAKE HER ADVICE..RAISE HELL AND STOP THIS WAR.
you are the most famous woman in America, we are counting on you to listen to the American public to do the right thing and end the war now.
The war was started by lies and deciet from the republican president, you are at a critical historical moment to do the right thing. Bring the troops home, stop the killing of Iraqui civilians. Stop the American Bullyism, stop the torture. Bring us back to a respectable and respected country that we once were. Give our tax dollars to American childern for thier schools, their afterschool care, thier free breakfast and lunches, home heating bills, do the right thing and refocus the country on peace, civil rights and a decent living for all the world not war and bullyism and profits for a few.
On Wednesday, January 31st I attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerning "remaining options for U.S. involvment in Iraq" where former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright were scheduled to testify. I got there early, and I was able to get a seat in the front row.
Coincidentally a CodePINK woman named Toby took a seat right next to mine. She was wearing all pink of course, and I was wearing a Veterans For Peace t-shirt with a pink longsleeve shirt peeking out from underneath.
As the hearing began, the room had filled up with a variety of people, mostly college students and Congressional staffers, who had come to witness the proceedings. Senator Biden (D - Delaware), the chairman of the committee began by saying that he felt that things needed to change in Iraq and that maintaining the status quo was not a viable option. Senator Biden's opening statement is available here: http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2007/BidenStatement070131.pdf
Others present when the hearing began were Senator Luger (R - Indianna), Senator Coleman (R - Minnesota), Senator Kerry (D - Massechusetts), Senator Boxer (D - California) and several others who I don't remember. Senator Kerry immediately excused himself, saying that he had to chair another hearing at the same time. Before long, Henry Kissenger was introduced, and he offered a pre-written testimony to the committee. It was about this time when Toby took off her jacket to reveal the words NO IRAN WAR written boldly in black on a pink best. At some point, Senator Obama (D - Illinois) entered the room and took his seat on the committee.
After giving his prepared statement there was a question and answer period.
When it came time for Senator Luger to question Dr. Kissinger, my stomach started to turn sour as I listened to a dialogue that seemed to imply that the only option was for the U.S. Military to remain in the Middle East indefinitely. I knew I had to say something in rebuttle to them in regard to this.
As Luger and Kissinger continued a one sided pro-war conversation, I could feel my heart beating heavily in my chest like I had never felt it beat before.
The Washington Post reported:
Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican, asserted that "we cannot be in a situation in which we say 'We're out of there,' " Lugar pointed out.
"I believe very strongly that we cannot withdraw from the region," Kissinger agreed.
At this point, I froze solid for about half a second, but something deep inside moved me to respond to these warmongers who needed to hear a voice of dissent.
SO, I stood up, cutting them off in mid sentence, and yelled, "The American people voted to end the war in Iraq!" and I held up a small banner I had made that read "Bring U.S. Service People Home Now". Then, after I got the first few sentences out, I totally lost my breath and could hear the words coming out of my mouth becoming weaker and kind of inaudible. That's when the Capitol Police grabbed my arms on both sides and said, "you need to come with us now". So, I said, "okay", picked up my stuff, and started walking away peacefully. However, I then realized that I was still in the committee room and should continue my appeal as long as I could. So, I proclaimed, "I am a Navy veteran... bring the troops home now... end the Iraq war!"
I was escorted out of the room by Capitol police. They detained me for about 10 minutes which gave me a chance to talk with them about Iraq Veteran Against the War and specifically about my friend Cloy Richards, an honorably discharged Marine who served two tours in Iraq and has been notivated he may be reactivated to serve another tour as part of Bush's troop surge. They seemd to sympathize with this a bit. After getting word from the committee Chairman about how he wanted them to handle my situation, the police let me go without arrest or citation. In fact, they said I could stay in the building if I would not go back in the hearing. So, I hung around outside the hearing room so people could see that I had not been arrested or otherwise harmed.
As I waited for the hearing to finish, I stood on the second floor balcony overlooking the spot where about 80 of us in CodePINK had done an action a couple days prior. On monday, we had placed a whole bunch of baby shoes with names of dead iraqi children on them in the lobby of the Hart Senate Building, then marched around the shoes in a circle chanting, "Stop funding the war!"
I had a feeling of satisfaction that we were keeping the pressure on, and that if we continue along this path of direct action we actually might play a part in ending the Iraq war!
Hillary Clinton's exploratory committee is about to launch a new blog, and they're holding a contest I wanted you to know about. They've decided to let a reader write the first post on the blog, and I thought you might have some good ideas to share. You can check it out here: http://www.hillaryclinton.com/action/firstpost/?sc=x101
Let's all blog to Hillary on her blog! see if anyone from CODEPINK wins!!!!
I have just come from the peace demonstration of January 27,2007. I have listened to the masses and girlfriend....you have a lot of work to do.
I really want to vote as do many other woman but you are making it very difficult.
Stop being the cautious politician and start being the peace loving woman and mother I am sure is in there. Start being real. Step out of the box; step into the shoes of the citizens of this country. Bring the troops home. Accept nothing else and SAY IT! Don't dance around it - SAY IT!
Get real Hillary. Let that hair down and you will be so surprised what will happen. You've got the money - now get the hearts of the people.
My heart is very full as I briefly reflect, in this Kinko's
a few blocks from the White House, on the HUGE and spirited
march around the Capitol on Jan 27, the intense and brilliant
trainings and speakers yesterday (MFSO,
Code Pink, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, UFPJ, Phyllis
Bennis and on and on...), and today's lobbying in the Rayburn
(House of Reps) and Hart (Senate) Buildings. Last May and
June, there were a few of us Pinkers here and there, in the
Rayburn cafeteria making plans, walking up and down the HIll,
standing in front of the White House, a tiny bit of pink amid
the gray of the warmaking machine. Today there was PINK everywhere
on the Hill, bringing a strong clear message to defund the
war, bring the troops home and NO WAR on Iran, to our members
Boxer's staffer, Sean Moore, was markedly more concerned and
warm this time around, compared to his condescension to us
last May. Of course, we Pinkers were in a very large CA contingent
including Vets for Peace, Progressive Democrats for America,
Gold Star Families and other military family members, and
just "regular" citizens. About 100 of us stood for
about an hour, explaining to Sean that we thank and appreciate
Boxer for what she has done (see the Boxer/Feingold bill)
but that she MUST go even farther. Sean assured us in various
ways that Boxer is opposed to the war and will vote against
the special appropriations.
The two staffers from Feinstein's office listened to heart-wrenching
testimony from parents of a 19-yr-old soldier killed in Iraq,
a therapist whose clients back from Iraq suffer from severe
PTSD, a Vietnam War vet, and others. One of them looked like
a bobblehead, he was nodding so much. But then when they were
asked how Feinstein would vote on special appropriations,
they merely said that she was "looking into that and
the FY 08 budget." Toby very eloquently responded that
it was not enough to just "look into it" and that
we expected her to vote for NO MORE MONEY FOR WAR, or we will
not support her.
We stood in that atrium for over 2 hours, presenting our arguments
against the war and for rebuilding both Iraq and our own country,
following hours of lobbying and strategizing in the morning
in the Rayburn Office Building. Please know that all of
us Code Pinkers are working very
hard, weaving together a new style of political actions (banner
dropping, shoes display and singing, for example) with more
traditional lobbying and networking. There's no gap or division
now between our different techniques here in DC. We do what
we can in the moment to get out our message, to reach hearts
and the media, and to have an impact.
We are doing all we can, and all your support means so much
to us. Please put together gatherings so that I and others
can report back (with GREAT photos!) when we return.
I am very tired, and I long for California. But as I said
in a gathering of activists from all over the US in the historic
Willard Hotel last night, I am proud to represent Bay Area
Please keep posting to this list, and forward this report
to anyone you wish!
Holding the California sunshine in my
heart in stony cold DC,
"I remember those before me and I know I'm not alone.
I will organize for justice. I will raise my voice in song."
-- "Bound for Freedom" Pat Humphries
You voted for the Iraq war and in the senate speech, justifyiong your vote, you mentioned the use of chemical weapons by Sadam against his own people.
When Sadam used the chemicals against his people, Did you make a public statement expressing your horror?
To the honorable Congressman (each one);
Saturday January 27th many people will go to Washington. Not to support our President but to ask him not to send more troops over seas. I plan to stand with them.
I too, am the Mother of a wounded soldier. He spent several years training in the Army with the 82nd airborne division stationed at Fort Bragg. In an accident in March 2003 he was almost killed. His back was broken, his jaws were both broken and his head was split open.
He was 23 years old, unmarried and suffered the loss of his finance only months after returning to the states. For his years of training and his injuries the VA pays him $712 a month.
We pay his other expenses because he is unable to work. We don't have health insurance or any other luxuries due to this accident.
I have written to you before and have been privileged to receive your form letters in return.
President Bush continues to send our soldiers to harm's way. Are you going to do anything to stop this crazy war? Are you doing anything to stop these soldiers from being sent in harms way for no reason? You're from North Carolina and considered one of us. When I get your letters I share them with our community, church and civic leaders. On behalf of the Mothers of wounded soldiers, where do you stand? Your answer would be greatly appreciated and your help in bringing our families home would be greatly appreciated.
Or maybe I should vote for Edwards but it ain't gonna be for YOU..unless you come out damn soon for a troop pullout of Iraq! Are you listening?.(hey we know your a woman and that your tough but don't overdo it!)...Bruce Davenport
Just before Bush gave his State of the Union address, we joined the World Can't Wait protest outside Congress. It was a small but spirited group standing out in the cold to give OUR message to Bush and the Congress. Then we ran back to a packed house at the restaurant Busboys and Poets to watch the speech. We yelled and hollered when Bush told one of his lies, had a lot of laughs, then had a discussion afterwards.
A few TV crews were there to watch us watching, including a local ABC station and Al Jazeera!
By the way, the next day I got a call from one of our CODEPINKers in Italy, Elaine Broadhead, who said she saw us from Italy on the English-language Al Jazeera--and had also seen us on the station when we were protesting in Guatanamo about the prison! So it seems like the Engish version of Al-Jazeera is becoming a good alternative source of info that gets around the world!
Wednesday, January 24
Ann Wright and I started out the day by going to the discussion at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Resolution to challenge Bush's surge. Considering that it occurred just the day after Bush appealed in his State of the Union address for Congress to give his plan "a chance to work", it was a great example of Congress starting to get some spine.
The resolution passed by a 12-9 vote. Only one Republican, Chuck Hagel, voted for it. Many of the Republicans expressed their concern over Bush's plan but succumbed to party pressure. The resolution will come before the full Senate next week. I hope plenty of peace activists stay in DC for the week to attend this critical vote.
In the afternoon we went to a discussion of veterans issues in the Veterans Committee Room of Congress. Hosted by Cong. McDermott and Cong. Filner, it included Ground Truth producer Patricia Foulkrod, five Iraq veterans, and Susan Sarandon who came to DC to help shine the light on the plight of the veterans.
The veterans spoke eloquently about how lonely vets feels then they return home, how difficult it is for them to get the support they need, how many are suffering from PDSD, how many are homeless. They talked about serving the country with honor and dignity, but then not being treated with dignity when they come home. It was clear that no matter how one feels about the war, we all have to get together to make sure solders are given all the help they need when they come home.
In the evening lots of CODEPINKers gathered at our “headquarters for the next few days, the Al Fishawy Café, to work on the Walk in Their Shoes display (labeling shoes with names of Iraqis who have been killed) and getting visuals ready for Saturday's march. It was great to meet and greet the folks who are starting to stream in from around the country, and get a sense of excitement about the upcoming march….
January 27th '07 will mark the #208th day of the "troops home
fast". I began on the 4th of july '06 with thousands of others.
I am still "liquids only" until the troop "redeployment"
home begins. i have another 50 lbs I can spare for the cause before
I find myself in a desparate situation....still this is the least
i can do when compared with what our troops and the occupied citizens
of iraq must face each moment. this administration has put us into
a true disaster... it is a no win quagmire.
Bush and his team will never be able to wash the blood from their
hands. last november WE THE PEOPLE spoke loud and clear.
WE WANT OUR TROOPS HOME NOW! !!!!!!!! if the newly elected
congress allows "king george" to continue to place his
own will over that of the people, they should look to history at
what happened to the last king george who tried to rule here. this
weekend i am with you in spirit each step of the way (just as i
was physically with you in sept '05) !!!!! carry this letter as
a sign of my commitment to the cause. Ii am proud of you my patriotic
sisters and brothers. carry on!!!
After taking a red-eye from San Diego last night, I arrived in Washington DC this morning and hit the ground running. Our wonderful Colonel Ann Wright had left me a message that she was at a hearing on the nomination of General Patraeus at the Senate Armed Services Committee. The General had been nominated to run the US forces in Iraq.
I found Ann (with her black T-shirt saying “3060 Dead: How Many More?”) and DC activist Harriet Barlow (with her pink shirt) sitting up front, right behind a row of generals.
Ann had already made a stand—literally—getting up after Senator Joe Lieberman had given a spiel about Congress' questioning of the President “surge” was bad for troop morale. She'd stood up saying she had been in the military for 29 years, that vigorous debate was for good for the US and that the troops were well aware of that. Go Ann!!!
It was fascinating listening to the discussion.
The Senators included Hillary Clinton (who was pretty good at least on the “surge”” issue) and Joseph Lieberman (who was terrible, making it seem like the surge was the only thing that would allow for a victory in Iraq). I cornered Lieberman as he was leaving and got a chance to have a conversation. I insisted that there was no military solution, and that a political solution was only possible with a timeline for US withdrawal, and he said we first had to stop the violence. We went round and round on that one.
We took a quick lunch break and then proceeded to another hearing—this one put on by the Senate Foreign Relations Committtee on alternatives in Iraq. The head of that committee is now Joe Biden, with Dick Lugar the ranking Republican. It's great to see the tables turned in all these committees, with Democrats setting the agenda.
The hearing had started in the morning but the afternoon witnesses were John Murtha and Newt Gingrich. Why Newt Gingrich would be asked to testify is beyond me, except, I suppose, as an anti-dote to the level-headed Murtha? Murtha was just stupendous. He said occupations don't succeed. He cited Algeria, India and Afghanistan, where the French, British and Russians, respectively, got their butts kicked. He insisted that we'd become the occupiers and that we should get out and let the Iraqis find a solution.
Gingrich was just selling fear—saying garbage like if we didn't “win” in Iraq, three US cities would be blown up by terrorists. He also handed out a paper that included a section saying that the dictators of Cuba and Venezuela were trying to acquire nuclear weapons!
The Senators are at least posing hard questions about Bush's policies. After four years, it's a start!
If you really want to be the first woman president, you have to listen to what women, men and children are saying both here in the US and in Iraq. As a woman you have a mandate to create a way of doing politics differently. Mothers and Fathers are asking for the killing to stop and yet you continue to keep the end of this war off your agenda. Wake up Hillary! We put Democrates in office because we are tired of the lies, torture and the killing of innocent people. If you want to give hope to all of us and young girls of the future, your message must be that violence in any form is unacceptable. Woman and children are always the victims of war. If you feel called to lead this country - then let your call turn into compassion and lead us in Peace not war.
I heard on the news today, we could actally talk with you to voice our concerns, which there are many, but if we cant find you to talk too, what's it gonna be like once you've won, no no, we want a web site where you talk directly to us, the parents of kids who are giving their lives for a no good war we can't win, just like Vietnam.
So my question is, you said you'd be here on line tonight, ok, where are you? That's what I thought, sounds good, but isn't. Thanks, you just lost a loyal supporter, I'll take Obama.
We're looking for leadership against this bloody illegal senseless war. This is not what we're looking for:
From Washington Post, January 18, 2007:
“ Clinton Steps Up Criticism of War in Iraq -- Senator Rejects Bush Strategy but Steers Clear of Timetable for Troop Pullout:
Her long support for the war and past reluctance to break more significantly with the administration have left her at odds with many liberal activists, who will play an influential role in the Democratic nomination battle. Yesterday, she stopped short of embracing a timetable for withdrawing troops from the conflict, an idea many activists support...
Attached is a picture of my granddaughter, Arundhati. What effect will this war, which only serves to kill maim and divide...what effect will it have on Arundhati's future?
Please help to bring this war to an end.
Hillary, like George Bush, you mistakenly linked Iraq to the war on terror and by voting for this war in October 2002, you share responsibility for the ensuing disaster. You have recently said that knowing what you know now, you wouldn't have authorized the invasion, but other top Democrats like John Edwards and John Kerry have actually apologized for their October 2002 votes and called for troop withdrawals. Not you.
Bush's surge and Barak Obama's entry into the race have forced you to come out against the escalation. But your idea of putting a cap on the January 1, 2007 troop levels leaves 132,000 of our sons and daughters in harm's way, which is not acceptable.
If you really want to win the presidency, Hillary, you not only need the anti-war votes, but you need the anti-war energy. We in the peace movement are the ones who walk precincts hand-delivering campaign literature; we're the ones will volunteer at the campaign headquarters to make endless phone calls; we're the ones out at the farmers' markets and the malls on weekends registering new voters; we're the ones up at 4am on election day to help get out the vote. If you want to win our support and harness our energy, you better bite the bullet, as they say, and join the majority of Americans and the vast majority of Democrats in calling for a swift withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Hillary, join the peace riders so we don't have to keep riding your ass and can focus on the lumbering elephants!
As a calculated politician, Hillary, it's time you admitted your miscalculations. You are OUT OF TOUCH with not only the American people, but also folks around the world who are appalled by your lack of commitment to finding peaceful alternatives to the Iraq quagmire.
By Judith Le Blanc United For Peace and Justice National Co-chair
On day 29 of the war, Beirut is a blend of many realities. The facts are that 1,000 have died, over 3,000 have been injured in Lebanon. Most are children. Whole villages and sections of cities have been evacuated, and life continues.
Every night there are new bombings of apartment buildings in Beirut and homes in southern Lebanon. Tyre has been blockaded and every major highway has been bombed. The United Nations says their humanitarian aid programs are paralyzed now.
Some Lebanese feel that the world has abandoned them. Many believe that Lebanon will survive as it has in the wars of the past. Time is not standing still. With every day the situation becomes more dire.
The spiral of continued war and failed diplomatic initiatives leaves the Lebanese government unable to make a full accounting of the extend of the damage to the infrastructure or the impact on the economy.
Families are trying to survive together and when possible they have sent their relatives to Syria or other countries even further away. One man who waited in line behind me to use the pay phone told me he sent his wife and children to another country. He stayed behind because his 90 year old mother refused to leave her apartment. He said
There are the families crowed into apartments waiting for the war to end. The families from the south of Lebanon sit under tarps for another day in Beirut's parks while others sit in public schools.
Cars form long lines at the few gas stations open while their drivers periodically erupt. into arguments.
Not too far off shore oil tankers are wait behind the Israeli Naval blockade while the hospitals report that they only have two days of fuel left. The tankers won't move with out written permission from the Israelis.
While the banks are the only business running on regular business hours, they fear that many loans will not repaid.
Small clothing stores are having sales for no shoppers. A French owned store laid off 200 workers. At the protest outside the store, the workers said why do you lay us off in a time of need? Most workers are on half days if at all. Others are being forced to take their vacation time.
In the Hamra neighborhood where Muslim, Christian and Druze live together small shops stay open while periodic power outages compel the use of small generators. It is less than 2 miles away from the southern neighborhoods bombed in the last few days.
Haret Hraik, a neighborhood in southern Beirut, has been bombed for three nights in a row. Almost all the small shops are closed except for an occasional tire repair shop. We went to photograph the damage. When we got out of the car there were many press photographers who asked where we were from. We went on to another block where a group of men were watching the bulldozing of buildings bombed two nights ago. They asked where we were from, of course, and then they offered us chocolates!
We talked of the war and its impact. At one point, a man came up and asked what media we represented. He was from Hezbollah. They have set up guards and street patrols. He told us where to go to register to get an inside tour. The second time we were stopped, a man on a scooter pulled the car over.he told us not to photograph at all and gave us the address to register for permission.
Amongst the rubble of a bombed out building, I spoke with a man named Idriss. We were watching the bull dozing of a building that had been bombed two night s before. He had lived in New York City before Sept 11. When he was deported from the US, the immigration officials told him they were sorry, but because he is Arab and Muslim he would have to leave.
We chatted about New York City and he asked where I lived. When I told him that I can see Yankee Stadium from my bathroom window, he wanted me to go see his good friend Sami at his corner store at 161 Street in the Bronx.
He spoke of the senselessness of the bombing, but also reminded me that the bombs were sold to Israel by the US. I took his picture and promised to go to see his friend.
Over the past three days, many have said that Hezbollah is not the issue now. It's the war. Some have said that Bush and the Israelis began this war to split the people along religious lines. More than one person said they believed this war was planned long ago. Some also believed the bombing was to force the people to decide to be for or against Hezbollah.
At noon time, as we photographed the clean up of one bombed out neighborhood, we were told by the press that another Israeli air raid had happened.
We thought we saw leaflets falling outside our window. Now they are reporting on CNN that yes, leaflets are being dropped in central Beirut. That has been the practice before a bombing. CNN is reporting that the Israeli government has decided to bomb closer to the center of the city.
There are many realities that are going on here. There is hope and there is fear. There is also a struggle to bring people together and lay the basis for a better future even while the end of this war is not in sight.
Today, though, we decided to go in. We had "papers" of sorts. Medea had her UN affiliate one day pass, gael had a business card, Judith had a business card and I had a little postcard from my book publisher showing the book they published of mine, plus, I had my Texas drivers license!
So we emptied our purses and bags of everything save those "papers" and a camera and money for a driver. We went downstairs to the hotel lobby and asked the man behind the desk for directions to a "certain" place in south Beirut where we could meet a "fixer". The man looked at us in astonishment. It is very dangerous he said. No driver will take you there.
Yes yes, very dangerous. You will not find a driver. So we walked out into the hot crowded street where traffic is head-on and a dog's width apart and hailed the first red license plate taxi we could find. Would he take us to South Beruit where the bombs were dropped?
Yes yes he said, climb in. Monsieur Mohamad was an old man, spoke little English, and lived in the neighborhood where the bombs fell. His wife and children had fleed earlier but he stiil remained and drove 12 miles into Beirut every morning in his battered taxi. Getting "benzene" for his taxi was a problem. Either the gas stations were closed or there were long long lines of piled up cars waiting their turn or there was a big fight at the pump for the benzene. Then old Monsieur winked at us; there is always the blackmarket where he can purchase gas for 9 dollars a gallon.
Pretty fast, Monsieur became our "fixer". He seemed willing to take us anywhere and everywhere so we wrote off the Hizpullah as unnecessary for the moment. We would take care of that bridge when we came to it. We were skating on thin ice. I especially realized it when we pulled up to the most recent bombed out neighborhood where buildings ten stories high were flattened to one huge pile of cement and wires and dust and rubble. In one building 52 people were killed and 70 injured. The rubble was still smoking. A huge Catipiller was clearing one of the streets and one lone man was hauling his clothes in a plastic bag. When we pulled up in the car, we asked Monsieur if we could get out and take pictures. Maybe we were paranoid and the driver in the catipiller didn't even see us and was only in a hurry to clear the rubble before another strike, but when the driver shifted into high gear and rammed his catipillar into the wires strung across the street and popped them like a bullwhip then careened down the dust filled road about 80 miles an hour, I figured our taxi was getting rammed. Later we learned from some media (who had took the 'tour") that the word was out that another strike was coming. So we all took off running.
If there's one constant in Beirut besides the bombing it is the men who have warned us not to go into the bombed out sections of west and south Beirut. For one thing, just anybody can not go in. You have to get special permission from hizpallah. You have to have papers. You must have a Œfixer¹ who arranges your tour and that usually costs $100. It helps if you¹re press. Another thing, it is very dangerous and two of your group are blonde haired women and the situation could be very sensitive. Better not to go in at all. Today, though, we decided to go in. We had Œpapers¹ of sorts. Medea had her UN affiliate one day pass, gael had a business card, Judith had a business card and I had a little postcard from my book publisher showing the book they published of mine, plus, I had my Texas drivers license!
So we emptied our purses and bags of everything save those Œpapers¹ and a camera and money for a driver. We went downstairs to the hotel lobby and asked the man behind the desk for directions to a Œcertain¹ place in south Beirut where we could meet a Œfixer¹. The man looked at us in astonishment. It is very dangerous he said. No driver will take you there. Really?
Yes yes, very dangerous. You will not find a driver. So we walked out into the hot crowded street where traffic is head-on and a dog's width apart and hailed the first red license plate taxi we could find. Would he take us to South Beruit where the bombs were dropped? Yes yes he said, climb in.
Monsieur Mohamad was an old man, spoke little English, and lived in the neighborhood where the bombs fell. His wife and children had fleed earlier but he stiil remained and drove 12 miles into Beirut every morning in his battered taxi. Getting benzene for his taxi was a problem. Either the gas stations were closed or there were long long lines of piled up cars waiting their turn or there was a big fight at the pump for the benzene. Then old Monsieur winked at us; there is always the blackmarket where he can purchase gas for 9 dollars a gallon.
Pretty fast, Monsieur became our Œfixer¹. He seemed willing to take us anywhere and everywhere so we wrote off the Hizpullah as unnecessary for the moment. We would take care of that bridge when we came to it. We were skating on thin ice. I especially realized it when we pulled up to the most recent bombed out neighborhood where buildings ten stories high were flattened to one huge pile of cement and wires and dust and rubble. In one building 52 people were killed and 70 injured.
The rubble was still smoking.A huge Catipiller was clearing one of the streets and one lone man was hauling his clothes in a plastic bag. When we pulled up in the car, we asked Monsieur if we could get out and take pictures. Maybe we were paranoid and the driver in the catipiller didn't even see us and was only in a hurry to clear the rubble before another strike, but when the driver shifted into high gear and rammed his catipillar into the wires strung across the street and popped them like a bullwhip then careened down the dust filled road about 80 miles an hour, I figured our taxi was getting rammed. Later we learned from some media (who had took the Œtour¹) that the word was out that another strike was coming. So we all took off running.
From Damascus to Beirut: Arriving, Safely By Medea Benjamin
Four of us—Gael Murphy, Judith LeBlanc, Diane Wilson and myself—split off from the rest of the group in Syria to make our way to Lebanon. Normally it would be a hop and a skip to go from Damascus to Beirut, but the southern border between the two countries had been bombed and was unpassable and the Beirut airport was closed. The only way to get in seemed to be making a big circle—driving all the way north, then west and entering from the top of Lebanon, and then driving south to Beirut. Even that northern road had just been bombed, and it wasn't clear from the Syria side if it had been reopened.
So we stopped at several places to ask—the Red Cross, the bus stations, the big hotels—but found differing opinions. So we decided to just take our chances, setting off in a lovely little green bus that belonged to a guy we had met the night before at a café. He had wanted to take us all the way to Beirut, but his brother, who owned the bus, said it was too dangerous. So we agreed to take us instead to the northern border and drop us where we could walk across and find another vehicle on the Lebanese side.
The ride was lovely and our driver entertained us by singing traditional Arab songs along the way. After about four hours, we reached Hums and then the northern border with Lebanon. There we met a sweet man who agreed to take us—for free—to Tripoli. Little did he know, however, that what should have been a five minute border crossing turned into a several hour wait. Why? Because Judith had traveled through Israel to the West Bank five years ago as part of a religious delegation and had an Israeli stamp in her passport. The border guards, in turned out, were both Christian and Muslim, and we happened to hand our passports to the Muslim guard who combed through them, obviously looking for the offending stamp.
From there, he called in to the Foreign Ministry, called our contacts in Beirut, and kept up waiting for several hours before finally giving her a 72-hour entry visa, while the rest of us were given a month. And while the rest of us got stamps in our passports, Judith got a separate piece of paper with a stamp because Lebanese stamps could not be placed in a passport sullied with an Israeli stamp. The Christian guards laughed at their Muslim friend for being so dogmatic—they said that if they had discovered the Israeli stamp they would have ignored it. But even the Muslim guard was good-natured and even apologetic. “We're at war, you know,” he said as he bid us goodbye with a smile.
The nice man who waited with us for hours at the border was a taxi driver who had been traveling the route from Lebanon to Syria every day for the past several weeks, taking out families who were fleeing the violence and then returning to Lebanon empty. He, as many others, were amazed that we wanted to GO to Lebanon while the war was going on. We was a Christian who didn't seem to have much compassion for the Muslims suffering in southern Lebanon. But he was happy to practice his English with us (he had worked at a gas station in Texas for a few months) and have the company . He apologized for not taking us all the way to Beirut, but gasoline was hard to get now that the country was under siege. Instead he dropped us in Tripoli at a bus stop where we could catch a ride to Beirut.
About seven hours after leaving Damascus, we arrived in Beirut hot and exhausted but delighted we had arrived—safely. The three bomb blasts that shook our hotel later in the night reminded us, however, that not everyone in Beirut was safe…
Day Two: The UN, the Displaced and the Lebanese Activists By Medea Benjamin
We broke up to do different tasks today. I started the day by visiting the new UN headquarters. Ever since the Lebanese people had trashed the UN building to protest the UN's refusal to call for a ceasefire, the UN agencies moved to a hotel on the beach called Movenpik. It's strange finding the World Health Organization and the World Food Program holed up in a fancy hotel with beach cabanas and tennis courts trying to figure out how to get aid to bombed out villages in the south without getting killed. A UN security advisor told us that all UN agencies and NGOs that want to take aid to the south first contact the Israelis for permission, and that if permission is denied, they don't go for fear they'd be shot.
With good reason. Just yesterday, a car driving beside the UN convoy had been shot, its two passengers killed. “We have to tell the Israelis when we're going, where we're going, what we're taking, and the exact size of the convoy,” the UN security advisor explained. The fact that the Israelis targeted the one extra car alongside the convoy seemed like a clear message that it is the Israelis, not the UN, in control. And lately, they've been denying the UN agencies the right to go, leaving the southern part of the country in a state of crisis.
One group that does not want to let the Israelis control the agenda is the Lebanese civil society groups who are setting up a convoy to the south on Saturday. We attended a meeting in the afternoon with about 25 people representing a wide range of organizations and individuals. They are hoping to get 100 cars to come on the convoy, but with the increasing shortages of gasoline, they may have to scale back. Most of the groups represented were not doing anything even remotely related just one month ago. Some, like Green Line, are environmental groups; some, like the Arab Women's Cultural Center, are artists and intellectuals; others, like the International Solidarity Movement, have been trying to protect the rights of Palestinians on the West Bank, but came to Lebanon after the fighting broke out here. What unites them is their outrage at the destruction of their country, their determination to do something to help those under attack, and their refusal to ask permission from the Israelis to help their own people. We have been planning to join the convoy as well, but with the new Israeli offensive, it's not clear if the road will even be passable.
In the afternoon we stopped at Saneyah Park, a place where about 1,000 displaced people are located. They are sleeping out in the open, without even tents. In fact, some people had offered to get them tents, but the people are afraid that if they set up tents, the Israelis will think they are a military base and bomb them.
Many people at the camp are quite traumatized, having lived through weeks of bombing, seen their loved ones killed and their homes destroyed. Many are from the southern towns that barely exist anymore. Others are from the Shia parts of Beirut that have been bombed. In fact, while we were there chatting, a huge blast made us jump in the air and the children start screaming. We later learned that 41 people were killed when that bomb struck an apartment building just a few kilometers away.
We talked to widows trying to survive with 4 or 5 young children; disabled people trying to get medical treatment or a wheelchair so they could get around; older people who were disoriented and in shock. The most resilient, of course, were the children, running around making games out of sticks and stones they found in the park. When we started taking their photos, they jumped all over us, asking us to take their pictures.
We fell in love with the children, and decided we wanted to do something special for them. The volunteers running the camp were providing the families with a basic hot meal every day, but little else. We asked the volunteers what the children would like, and they in turn asked the children. “Would you like chocolate, or cookies or ice cream?,” they asked. At the word ice cream, their eyes lit up.
Back in the US, when we were doing our 30-day fast in front of the White House against the war in Iraq, every Friday night we'd feed ice cream to the homeless. Now this Friday, we'll be providing ice cream for about 500 Lebanese children displaced by the war. Ice cream for those suffering and dispossessed seems to have become a theme for our efforts, especially during these hot, summer months. I can't wait until we figure out the logistics for ice cream giveaway, so we can see the happy faces of these children who have suffered so much.
The people here feel helpless to stop the fighting, and they feel the world community has abandoned them. They are particularly angry at the United States, who they feel is providing Israel with the weapons and the international cover to keep up the attacks. One US aid group, when they entered a village that had been attacked, was chased away by angry local people who refused their donations. In fact, some UN people advised us to say we were Canadian or European, not American.
People are also angry at the Arab leaders who have been so slow to demand a ceasefire coupled with Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. While the UN is stuck in what seems like endless deliberations, every day they delay in setting up a ceasefire, more and more people are killed, wounded and displaced. Just today, an additional 200 people streamed into this camp after their homes were attacked. And this is just one of dozens of camps here in Beirut. Tomorrow, there will be more…
hey folks can you believe. after 3 days in beruit we finally have email. it has been a real ringamarow to do. Finally got a phone too. We cant really call out since it costs an arm and a leg and 4 of us women here are using the same phone but ya'll can call us and we dont get charged. maybe if you can call thru internet it will be cheaper for ya'll. we're fixing to leave for bombed area. we were bombed last night but nobody hurt. it wwas up futher south. sending you a bit of a blog. will write more when i get back. xxxxxxx amazing amazing.xxxxxx Damascus. Heard last night on CNN that all the roads into Lebanon have been bombed and there is no way out or in. Still we had decided to enter Lebanon at which ever border we could so Medea and Gael commadered a bus from a singer they met in a outdoor café in Damascus at 2am and he was so taken with hauling 4 women to beruit that he offered, on the spot, his brother¹s company bus to drive us straight to Beruit then wait for us in Beruit until we finished our business then he would take us back to Damascus. And all for $100. Which was a fine fine plan for us given that we¹d heard all the roads were bombed out and if there were drivers, they were charging anywhere from $600-1,000 american dollars to haul people fleeing the bombing in Lebanon to Damascus in Syria. A good plan indeed. But the next day the singer came sheepfaced and red and said his brother said he must be crazy to offer such a thing. So our plan to leave Damascus at 7am was nixed until we could find another driver and another car and another price.. So we climbed into the highly fringed bus with the curtained windows (12 seats to one woman!) while our apologizing singer drove us, first, to the Syrian Red Cross who we had been told was sending supply trucks to Beruit. Unfortunately the Red Cross was only for Syria and they couldn¹t help us, either, on a route or a convoy to Beruit. Besides, hadn¹t we heard, almost all the roads were bombed out and only the northern route might work. So our singer (after singing us a song from a free standing mike hooked to the dashboard and dancing some kind of salsa mumba through the aisles) took us to the International Red Cross who told us that yes, convoys were going almost daily into Lebanon but, no, we couldn¹t hook a ride. Eventually, though, after a lot of talking we were given the route the convoy was taking and we got back on our fringed bus while the only woman who could speak Arabic haggled the price with the singer because now the l00 dollars to Beruit had become l00 dollars just to the Lebanon border where he could take us without incurring the wrath of his brother, the bus company owner.. The singer eventually settled on 60 dollars to take us to the border, but we,privately, were thinking Œwait and see¹ if we can get him to take us further. We had good reasons for wanting that bus. We were warned that if we took a southern route into Beruit we would have to get out with our suitcases and walk for a considerable distqnce over bomb craters to get to the other side and maybe maye find a car that would take us the rest of the way. Having a bus eliminated a lot of walking through bomb holes.
An hour and a half later we arrived at the northern most border. The border was like a small town in west Texas; hot and dusty and jam packed with cars and buses and people. There were a half dozen little nondescript blonde block buildings where we handed over our passport then received slips of paper that we filled out to turn in to another little block building. The last passport entry into Lebanon was almost a deal breaker. One of our four women had went into Isreal a year ago and the entry was in the passport. So while we waited on whether or not we were going to have to leave one of us at the border hooking a ride back to Jordan, some of the more savy travelers (Gael Murphy and Medea) negotiated with drivers to take us into Beruit. This was where reality hit the pavement. There was a UN delegation at the border who was telling us it was going to be VERY EXPEnSIVE to get a driver to take us to Beruit but the real truth was it was cheap as dirt. The price started at 60 dollars, then dropped to 50$. It began to dawn on us that we acould get into Beruit for nothing so then Gael and Medea started looking for a car that was fairly new and had air conditioning.. Lucky for us, we found a driver that had lived in dear ole Houston for one year but got fed up quick and went home to Lebanon. He worked for a nice taxi service in Beruit that eccvhanged taxi every two years. This driver charged us nothing and waitied two hours while we sweated over our passports.
Around 3PM we crossed the border into Lebanon and started seeing the roads pockmarked with bombs. The first had occurred the night before and looked like someone had chisled a many spangled star into the asphalt. We drove about 80mph, skyrocketing into Lebanon, apparently on a self imposed deadline to get into beruit before Nightfall because the bombs started at nightfall.
We made it to Tripoli around 5pm and the sun was getting red and low. Our ex-Houston driver wheeled into a open vacant garage, yelled something at someone who yelled something back. The driver then wheeled around in the middle of the road and cruised up to some men who were hanging around minivans. One was already full with about l0 men. Apparently we were at our bus stop; the next minivan would take us into Beruit for 5 dollars a woman. Our suitcases where tied down on top of the minvan and a half dozen men piled in with us.
To say we four women were an oddity is an understatment. Our oddness blared out like we had speakers hanging off our necks. Not only were we women heading INTO Beruit, but two of our group were blonde and smacked of Americana. I was amazed by the Lebanese cordiality in spite of the well known position of the Bush Administration giving a green light to the bombing of the cities. They always said ,"you are very welcome here."
The minvan had the same kind of air conditiong I had in my truck back in Texas. 2-80. Two windows down and driving 80 miles an hour. Then 30 minutes into our ride we saw the real bombed out bridges and roads that CNN was talking about. Huge holes the size of small buildings with jagged chucks of cements and rebar poking in every direction. But amazingly, feeder roads trailed around and through trees and over hills, then thru narrow neighborhoods, then whack! we were back on the main road and we¹d all look back and see the gaping hole left by the bomb blast.
Everyone is very nice and appreciates us here. We are fine but saddened to see the situation, lots of human suffering, lots killed injured and suffering. Meeting with refugees in camps and schools, lots of Lebanese mobilized to help. The UN can't move to deliver food and supplies because of threats from Israel, we hear bombing every night. Israeli's are taking more and more of an aggressive stance and you can feel it. Trying to see and learn as much as we can. Like in Iraq we are finding that Lebanese can make the distinction between the Am people and the US Gov't. There is no question in their mind that the US and Israel are connected, deeply disturbed by the UN's incapacity to get a ceasefire.
The city is more dirty and more crowded. Fuel is running out soon, and the neighborhood we are in has a black out and partial black outs in the day, maybe a way to save fuel. They are devastated and want to be left in piece and want the Israeli's out of their country.
We are doing an ice cream giveout to 500 kids tomorrow afternoon. They sleep under old blankets and torn sheets under trees, they won't get in the tents for fear they will be bombed. Close to 1,000 displaced people living in the park near them. And strangely life goes on, some businesses are still functioning.
Frustrating for the Lebanese to see 60% of Americans are against the war but nothing is stopping it.
This weekend they are organizing to take supplies to the south, it will take 8 hours to get there. But there are threats anyone traveling south of the line will be seen as the enemy and fair game to be shot. So they aren't sure what they can do. They plan on coming home on Monday.
First blog from Jordan By Jodie Evans, CODEPINK Cofounder
I remember the first time I traveled to Jordan, it was to cross the desert to Iraq…. Now we can't continue and remain on the same street in Amman, Jordan, the violence in Iraq too risky.
So many memories from these last 3 ½ years are on the plane and the arrival, but this time a kind Jordanian picks us up and takes us to the hotel. Tom Hayden has introduced us to Munther who takes care of us as we arrive, thrilled to be caring for Cindy Sheehan.
As I enter the Toledo Hotel, I can see it is upgrade from each time we visit, the owner says hello, thanks us for our continued commitment and offers me fresh squeezed mango juice, as I continue the fast.
Memories are flooding me…the night we arrived here for the first time and traveled from the airport to Baghdad, all the adventures on the way and the discovery of the rich kindness of heart of the Iraqi… nothing has changed, as the meetings begin that kindness and humanity is present. I start to cry, what have we done to these good people? I am ashamed.
Raed briefs us on the diversity of the parties in Iraq, if only we could have such diversity and independence in the US of A. All the parties that ran for election, ran on an end the occupation platform, overwhelming numbers want to end the occupation 85%. Iraq is dominated by parties tied to Iran, the Iraqi will choose Iran before the US.
Those secular Iraqi elite that were in Saddams gov't, they stopped ruling because of the war, this is the group the Bush admin is wanting back in power. What was this all about some Iraqi ask us?
I am remembering the days when we came, back in '03, Omar Zaida's father telling us the consequences of letting go the army and the Baathists. Watching his predictions come true, predictions he told to Bremer, who ignored them.
Let's go back to the Iraq before we invaded, there was a good education and health care system, food for everyone. That system didn't belong to Saddam it belonged to the Iraqi, it belonged to years of creating what a civilization needed. If your parents didn't send you to school they could be put in jail.
Now we were with our friends Dr Intisar and her 4 daughters and Eman and her 2, who had to leave Iraq, because it was too dangerous. The Parliamentarians we were about to meet with, they too have their families outside of Iraq... in this city is about 500,000 Iraqi seeking safe harbor. And you can visibly see the affect on Jordan, the Iraqi money and US $$ has been good for Jordan -- it is growing in riches.
The first group arrives to the meet with the delegation.
“We want to welcome you to Jordan, hopefully some day we can welcome you to Iraq.” “The whole election in Iraq was a false thing. To find an American who fights for an Iraqi issue is something people do not expect in these days. You are great people we are delighted to sit with you and listen to you.”
“In Iraq after the occupation, I have been suffering for a long time, this occupation is really nasty. “ He speaks in Arabic.
“Occupation of Iraq is trying to remove Iraq nationality and corrupt Iraqi ethics, and the occupation is trying to build an occupation of Iraqi which is not the Iraqi people. The best example after the fall of Saddam, we looked like thieves looting our own country.”
“Iraqi were hurt and offended by the focus on a small group, just to build a bad image of Iraq and Iraqi's”
“We witnessed with our own experience how American tanks used to break Universities and asked people to loot them. These people who started looting in the beginning were not from Iraq but other countries, Kuwait was involved.”
So in the beginning we saw all of the destruction caused by the invasion, the occupation is trying to pull Iraq into a new quagmire, which is that of civilian conflict, it is the most dangerous problem for Iraqi now. All of us heard what the British Ambassador said, “Iraq maybe be facing a full scale civil war in the future but we have a small space to deal with it”.
As with everything dark that is happening now, the attempt is to hold onto hope….
My trip to Jordan from JFK Airport in New York City started out with a Middle Eastern flavor the other day. A group of us came here to meet with Iraqi Parliamentarians and human rights groups to find out what the people of Iraq who don't live in the Green Zone and who do not get their paychecks from the White House think and feel about the occupation and what their hearts' desires are for their country.
While I was still in JFK, an Iraqi gentleman approached me who is now displaced and living in Jordan. He recognized me and was "honored" to meet me and grateful for my work but wanted to convey something to me. He said that while what the peace movement is doing in the US to end the occupation is very gratifying to the people of Iraq, it is "too late" for his country. He said everyone who could leave, has left, and that most of the country is beyond repair. The miraculous Babylon, which has been in existence for thousands of years, didn't even last three years after the Americans got there. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, added to the over a million who died during the sanctions ... He sadly informed me that the Americans are not stopping the sectarian violence, only encouraging it in his country, and he holds little hope for any future for the land that he was born in and loves.
We were picked up at Queen Alia airport in Amman by Munther who has worked in and out of the government of Jordan and consulting for NGOs for years. He helped broker the 1999 peace agreement between Jordan and Israel - as his specialty is water and agriculture. He is so fortunate to live in Jordan with his family, but he has been shot and been the target of rockets in his home for his work for peace. Munther realizes that a true and lasting peace cannot be achieved by eternal war and killing and has paid some tough prices for his beliefs.
The most horrifying testimony of the day was when we met with "Dr. Nada," an Iraqi doctor who stayed in Baghdad to help her people during the sanctions and the invasion. She didn't abandon her country, or sell it out like many privileged people who exited during the Baathist regime (like Iyad Allawi or Ahmed Chalabi) or the sanctions ... which she, as a supervisory physician at a major Baghdad hospital, said killed two million children. The children died of pollution and sicknesses from depleted uranium during the first gulf mistake of George the First. The babies died because of the war, but also because there is no medicine and very limited medical facilities to treat them. Dr. Nada brought the daughter of a friend, three-year-old Farrah, who had short brown hair and big brown eyes. There were so many young children playing in Queen airport yesterday when I got here and dozens running around the hotel. My heart almost bursts with sorrow when I think of all of the children in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan who have had such horrible lives and had many of their lives cut short by the evil war machine that seems to be running our world.
US General Abizaid said to a Senate committee yesterday that Lebanon could be an effective government and US partner in the war on terror if only their equipment could be "upgraded" and their troops "trained" properly and that the US would be happy to "assist" them. With all of the degraded and spent Israeli equipment and bombs and the billions of upgrading the US military equipment needs, it looks like it is going to be another banner year for the war profiteers!
Dr. Nada also told us about seven harrowing days she spent working in an emergency room in Baghdad between April 2 and April 9 in 2003. She said that over 100 casualties PER HOUR were coming through her hospital alone and that many died because they could not be helped in time. She was responsible for the triage and she had to work knowing that number 100 that hour would almost certainly die. The people her hospital operated on at that time were just rolled out into the halls with no histories or IDs. She said that she remembers that time as "amputated body parts swimming in a sea of blood."
Dr. Nada stayed in Iraq all of those years but now lives in Jordan because of the continuing violence of the militias and death squads and kidnappings in her homeland. She says that the Americans, even though they don't kill every innocent Iraqi, are responsible for "100 percent of the deaths," because they are not protecting the Iraqi people, and the occupation is fueling the violence.
I will be leaving Jordan tomorrow to head to Camp Casey III to confront George with the horrors of his failed policies in the Middle East. We just got an update that he will be leaving town on the 9th now, instead of earlier published reports that said the 14th. Munther also commented to me yesterday that he couldn't believe that George didn't have the "courage or courtesy" to meet with me. I responded: "He doesn't even have the courage to be in the same town with me, anymore." This cowardly cowboy and his minions who are so quick to condemn children to early deaths need to face up to the reality of their crimes. We need to be as relentless and as ruthless for peace, and in peace, as they are for war.
I can't bear to stand by and watch more innocent Farrahs and Caseys be killed. So I will be sitting in the ditch on Sunday to ask the same question: "Why?"
Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Casey Sheehan, who was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004, and who inspired Camp Casey, which is set up near George's ranch in Crawford, Texas every time he is SUPPOSED to be there. Cindy is also co-founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace and author of three books: Not One More Mother's Child, Dear President Bush and Peace Mom: A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism. She is currently in Amman, Jordan, meeting with Iraqi officials while on Day 32 of the Troops Home Fast.
Camp Casey Three will run this summer between August 6th and September 2nd. Everyone is welcome.
We had a great circle today at the White House vigil with over 40 people who came to share their reflections on the Troops Home Fast, and their well wishes and blessings for the long-term fasters who will travel to Jordan tomorrow. One woman thanked CODEPINK for giving her the courage to become an activist. Others reflected on their fasts and the excitement of being outside the White House every day. Diane affirmed that something miraculous always comes out of a fast or an action like ours. One person—Chloe—signed up on the spot to be a new local coordinator! Faye Williams stopped in to wish us well and passed on greetings from Dick Gregory. The circle was full of gratitude and love and it was incredible to see how so many people had become so intimately involved in this ongoing action for peace.
After sharing our names and reflections, we heard some poems, and then a prayer from Father Louis Vitale. We had a moment of silence as we meditated on our intentions for the Peace Delegation and our hopes for the brave travelers; then we tied pink strings onto each others wrists to symbolize our commitment to bringing home the troops and our grassroots community. We sang a version of “Let it Be” rewritten with “We Will Fast” lyrics. Then Ann Wright led us over to the White House, banners, bullhorn, and all, for a rousing shout at George Bush, asking him what he was having for lunch that day and affirming our fast and the power of the people to make change in the world. We chanted “Troops Out Fast” and “Stop the Killing! Stop the War!”. The attached photo is of our group outside the White House.
Today we started out with a vibrant pink presence outside the White House with over a dozen fasters. We were joined by several young women from the Youth Summer of Resistance program, a mom and daughter pair who drove up from Florida, and Rae, who flew in from San Francisco with more pink banners and umbrellas, and a big heart banner with messages of support from Bay Area CODEPINK for the fasters. We were getting situated in the park and beginning to flyer and sing, when all of a sudden a troop of kids in military camo came marching two by two through the park and up to the fence of the White House. These “Young Marines” were little kids—maybe 7-14 years old—who were head-to-toe mini-soldiers: The front two carried flags, and their combat boots marched in perfect unison. We grabbed the bullhorn and banners and led a rousing chorus of “I ain't going to study war no more.” Much to the angry adult Marine's chagrin, we encouraged these young folks to question authority, play instead of fighting, and study peace. They looked at us with bewilderment and stifled interest. They snapped their photos and then quickly evacuated the area, as swiftly as they entered, leaving our hearts heavy and our minds busy trying to understand how parents could cultivate discipline through teaching violence so young.
The excitement of yesterday's fast outside the Iraqi Embassy—where we set up “Camp Al-Maliki” in an attempt to meet with Iraq's prime minister, Al-Maliki (hyperlink to Medea's blog yesterday)—made us very hopeful at the start of our day today. After meeting with the Ambassador yesterday evening, receiving his verbal support, concern for our well being, and offering of cold water, we felt confident that today he would arrange a meeting with Cindy Sheehan and the fasters. We sent out a national email alert asking CODEPINK supporters to call the Iraqi Embassy to encourage the Prime Minister to meet with us. We're not naïve; we knew it was a long shot—but we were encouraged by the Ambassador's approach to the fast, and we wanted to let the embassy know the depth of our commitment to bring our troops home and end the occupation.
At noon Cindy Sheehan, Medea, and several other fasters convened outside the embassy to meet with Al-Maliki, or at least someone at the embassy. However, we were denied access inside, and waited for 7 hours in vain. Finally, in preparation for a reception for Al-Maliki being held at the embassy this evening, the cops came and cornered off the street, ordering us to leave immediately. Five of us decided to stay sitting outside the embassy, consciously risking arrest because we wanted our message to be heard by the embassy.
Supporters of the fast gathered on two street corners behind the yellow caution tape, holding pink banners. The cops built up their presence, prepared their plastic cuffs, called in the paddy wagon, and waited. Though they continued to do their job, the DC Metro Police officers on duty and numerous secret service uniformed cops were very supportive. Finally a very friendly cop issued the third notice for arrest, and at the last minute, an unknown man seemingly from the embassy got on his cell phone with the ambassador and then handed the phone to Medea. Medea spoke with the ambassador, who told her that if they cleared the street and did not get arrested, then he would try his best to ensure that Medea and Cindy would be invited into the 6 pm evening reception with Prime Minister Al-Maliki, and obtain an audience with him. They would also have to agree to break bread with the Iraqi leaders (thereby breaking their fast) at the reception.
Medea agreed to this proposal, embracing the beautiful idea of breaking her fast in the Iraqi Embassy with such a heartfelt gesture of warmth and greeting on behalf of the Iraqi government. The motorcade with Al-Maliki and his accompaniment arrived, and as the black cars drove into the blocked off street, the fasters all held up peace signs and sang, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” We were all hopeful, eager to accomplish something for this great sacrifice that we, and over 5,000 people around the country, are making in the name of Peace. Those who have been fasting for 22 days were anxious for a breakthrough, for some glimmer of hope, and so we embraced this idea. And we waited. And waited.
Minutes ticked by, then a half hour, and then an hour passed. By 7 pm no action had been taken to invite Medea and Cindy into the Embassy for the reception, and Medea had not heard back from the ambassador, who had promised that if there were any complications he would be in touch with her directly. Then the big embassy doors again groaned open, the diplomats reemerged and speedily repopulated their black cars and drove away.
The group was left with the hollow feeling of false promises, the all-too-familiar sense of betrayal at the hands of a political persona. Our hopes had soared, only to again face a lack of response. Twice we waited—once at midday and once at the end of the day—and twice we were denied. We thanked everyone who had stayed to bear witness to the course of the day's actions, and we dispersed, without even a single cell phone number for anyone at the embassy. We had called the office numerous times over the past 24 hours, and our calls were matched by calls from all over the country. The words of the ambassador, who had assured Medea that the prime minister was very sympathetic to cause and worried about the fasters, hung in the air, kissing the faster's determined faces with deception.
Each incident such as the one we were a part of tonight inscribes upon us a sense of distrust, but we are still too stubborn and fiercely compassionate to succumb to the Sisyphus myth. We know that every action, however diminished the results, makes an impact, not only on our global leaders, but on passersby, and on ourselves. Our politicians may not be faithful to their words, but our faith in the transformative power of fasting, nonviolent action, and peace, only grows stronger.
Resolved to make a difference, to stop the war, to make our voices heard, we make plans to vigil outside Congress during Al-Maliki's visit tomorrow.
July 4, 2006... the day we celebrated the 230th year of our independence and freedom from the tyranny of George the Third. I had joined my Code Pink sisters and our supporters for a fast in front of the White House. After our own little ceremony of prayer, song, and reflection, we moved down to Constitution Avenue where the parade was passing. We kept to the sidewalks as we didn't have a permit to march in the street. We walked through the parade of observers softly chanting “Peace Now”. At one point along Constitution Avenue and 14th Street, we stopped to watch the marching bands and floats pass by.
It was then that a young Iraq War vet opposing this war decided to step over the barrier rope to march in the parade. Park police wrestled with him to prevent him from doing so. In the scuffle with police, he was knocked down but got up and attempted to get to the street again. The police then grabbed him, put him in handcuffs, and escorted him to the paddy wagon.
It was at this moment that a little silver-haired lady who is only 4'8”, 96 pounds, and in her 70th year, lost it completely. Quickly making her way to the barrier rope, she stepped over and loudly announced: “If you're going to arrest him, then you're going to have to arrest me too.
The park police did their best to dissuade her but she resisted their attempts to get her back behind the rope and another scuffle ensued. She was promptly handcuffed and put into the wagon along with the young veteran to be taken to the district station where they would be booked.
That woman was me and I'm here to say that I have no regrets about what I did.
Jeff and I shared a holding cell and I listened to his story. This young man of 25 suffered from a serious leg injury while still in training but was sent to Iraq anyway. While serving there, he was told by medics that it was “ nothing to worry about” even after his leg turned black because of blood clotting. Today he walks with a cane limping along.
That was not the reason he protests this war. He was there and saw what it has done to countless innocent people there. It haunts him and he also suffers from what has been diagnosed as post-traumatic stress syndrome. So he is doing what every human being has the right to do - to protest injustice.
Now I find it ironic that a young soldier who did a tour of duty in Iraq to keep our country “free” doesn't have the right to walk in our Independence Day parade on the streets of our nation's capitol - on a day when we celebrate all those freedoms - in particular, freedom of speech.
Mark Twain once wrote: “Patriotism means being loyal to your country all of the time and to its government when it deserves it”.
For me, truer words were never spoken.
For a number of years I was a volunteer facilitator in conflict resolution workshops, both in prisons and the community. I received my training for this work under the auspices of the Alternatives to Violence Project, an international organization. Thinking back on the highly successful workshops that I've done in the past, I can't help thinking how I would love to have a three day workshop with the leaders of the world. Just give me three days to lead them in a series of interactive exercises that would teach them something about communication, cooperation, creative problem-solving, and bias awareness. I bet it could make a difference. After I returned home from this Fourth of July “celebration”, I tried to relax a bit and felt drawn to listen to an Andrea Boccelli album called Sogno. There is a duet that he sings with Celine Dion and it's called “The Prayer”. The lyrics that touch me so deeply, translated into English, are from the third verse :
Give us faith so we'll be safe We dream of a world with no more violence A world of justice and hope As a symbol of peace and brotherhood.
Those words resonate in my head and encourage me to continue in my protest of this immoral war. I fell asleep remembering the smile on that young vet's face when I told him: “There was no way that I was going to let you be jailed all alone. Tell your mom that I did this for her”.
Hello to Fasters from Florida, I am so in awe of you all. I was so glad to have a chance to visit with you in DC on July ll, to spend the afternoon with my long-time friend Diane Wilson, and to just be with you all for a while. That was Diane's day 8, the day Ann was arrested, and the day Diane had the phone interview with those Fox skunks. Here's a photo taken of Diane and me..... Standing in solidarity with you all, Peace, Joy Towles Ezell Perry, FL firstname.lastname@example.org http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HopeForCleanWater/
Fasters fast at the Iraqi Embassy By Medea Benjamin
We had quite a day today at the Iraqi embassy. We set up “camp” across the street on the grounds of a local church in anticipation of the visit to Washington of Prime Minister Al-Maliki. We held a press conference to announce that we were urging the Prime Minister to not meet just with George Bush and Congress, but to also meet with those of us who were on the 21st day of a hunger strike. After all, we, the fasters, are more representative of public opinion in the US than Bush and Congress!
We had a somewhat decent press turnout—CNN was there, so was Reuters and the large Arab TV network Al-Arabiya. We did lots of radio interviews as well. In addition to the fasters, we had as speakers Iraqi analyst/blogger Raed Jarrar and a wonderful Canadian Member of Parliament Libby Davies.
After the press conference, we walked over to the embassy to try to deliver our letter. [We are also printing a copy of the letter to the Prime Minister in one of the largest Iraqi newspapers on Tuesday.] Our signs said “Listen to the Iraqi people, not Bush. End the Occupation” and “We stand with the Iraqi people in their call to end the occupation” and a sign in Arabic saying “We support the reconciliation plan.”
Despite our peaceful demeanor and peaceful signs, at first they were very terrified of us, refused to take our letter, and had the police and secret service try to move us away. But like good peaceful warriors, we stood our ground and to their credit, they didn't arrest us! Instead, Raed, as an Iraqi, managed to get inside the embassy and encourage them to accept our letter. After several hours, when we finally made them realize we were peaceful, not only did they take our letter, but the Ambassador himself came out to talk to us. He was very lovely, very diplomatic. He seemed genuinely concerned that we had been fasting for 21 days, and said he would convey our desire for a meeting to the prime minister. He even had the staff come out and bring us all bottles of cold water.
We told the Embassy staff that tomorrow we would be joined by Cindy Sheehan, who will sit outside the embassy, quietly asking for a meeting. We hope that Cindy's presence will help increase the pressure. We're asking our supporters to call the embassy (202-483-7500, press 1 for English, 102 for the Ambassador's office) to encourage the Prime Minister to meet with us. We're not naïve, it's definitely a long shot—but even the process of trying is helpful, as it lets the embassy know the depth of our commitment to bring our troops home and end the occupation. Everyone felt it was a great day.
What? Fasting is illegal? The victory of the Troops Home Fast Weeklong
Fasting Vigil outside the CA Capitol
Sacramento has never been so beautifully pink.
There was a fast on the south side of the State Capitol from 6 am
to 9 pm this entire week starring our resolute Troops Home Fast
supporter, Victor Copeland. Initially, the cops said that Victor
couldn't fast outside the Capitol on public grounds because
he may be endangering his own life, so they required that he put
on his sign that he was only fasting from 6 am to 9 pm, whereupon
he would eat dinner. (Check out Victor's sign in the photos
on this blog!) The ACLU jumped on the issue and by the end of the
week had won the case, ensuring that Victor retained his freedom
of speech, as the police dropped their restrictions.
On Friday, July 14 we held the concluding ceremony and press conference
for the weeklong fast outside of the CA Capitol in Sacramento.
Blog from CODEPINK Sacramento
Co-organizer Jo Souvignier:
The press conference at 11 a.m. went well. I'm not good at estimating
crowd numbers but I would say 20 or so were there, including Victor,
of course, (who was the first speaker and talked briefly about why
he'd been fasting all week), Peter Camejo (who made a very moving
speech against the U.S. occupation of Iraq), eloquent words from
Natalie, Sureya, and some spontaneous speeches from Mary (who'd
been in DC fasting and is going to return), and Janet Weil. Rae
spoke and awarded Victor with a Pink Badge of Courage for his dedicated
involvement in the Troops Home Fast.
Following the press conference Rae, Sureya, Natalie, Mary Ellen,
Janet, John, Victor and myself stopped by various Legislators offices
(who were all on recess--what's new) however, when we were fortunate
enough to get a receptive ear, one of us would discuss the urgency
of getting AJR 36 passed through Committees and to the Assembly
so that it could be voted on.
About 8 p.m., my hubby, Rod showed up with cold juices, bread,
and some Fuji apples. There were approximately 20 to 25 of us sitting
around in a circle, toasting Victor--AND TROOPS HOME FAST! Victor
mentioned that now that he understands the Capitol "permitting
process" (thanks to Natalie) he'd like to continue to protest
the war on the Capitol steps once a week for a few hours. He said
that Mondays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. would be a good time for
him. Finally, on behalf of CODEPINK,
I thanked Victor for his inspiration to all of us and presented
him with a CODEPINK (hot pink) t-shirt.
Victor thanked me and slipped the shirt on immediately! Looked pretty
cool on him, too!
Among those present at Victor's "fast breaking ceremony"
were: Steve and Virginia Pearcy, Linda Copeland (Victor's mom),
Linda Tuttle, president of Women Democrats of Sacramento County
(WDSC), Linda Tuttle's son, Mary Ellen, Mark, M.K., C-Bob, Steve,
Ed, Mary (from Davis) and Mary's husband, Zen, Bob, my husband Rod
and others. I didn't know everyone but Victor passed around a sign-up
sheet. I left about 9:15 p.m. and people were still sitting around
By Diane Wilson
Let's talk about *buffalo
wings. Conversation came up the other day from Geoff Millard, an
Iraqi War veteran who had been speaking out against the war. He
was from Buffalo, New York and wanted to know why everybody called
buffalo wings "buffalo wings" while the folks from Buffalo call
them "chicken wings"?
Well, I didn't know the wings were named after a city in New York.
I thought it was named after, well...buffalos. Maybe an old native
A hunger strike is just like in the movies about starving POW's
sitting in a circle and reminiscing. Conversation goes straight
to food and what they're going to eat when they get out‹or
in our case, get off this strike. Yesterday I had a hankering for
barbque potatoe chips. Usually it's pizza or Mexican food. One fella
that fasted for a week said he ate so much after getting off the
fast that he made himself sick. Ate four meals in one day.
I have been cautioned about my lack of caution on how I end a
hunger strike. Most authorities ( even "Doc Gregory") say start
sloooooow on diluted juices for one week, then broth for a week,
then. Well, you get the picture.
My first hunger strike I ended with a pizza, the second ended
with Mexican food, the third with Pizza, fourth with Mexican food,
etc etc. My only rule of thumb is alternate Mexican food with pizza.
I have no idea why my stomach doesn't totally rebel but I believe
it has to do with my philosophy about sickness. Just ask my kids.
We were shrimpers, scraping a living, and health insurance was not
in our vocabulary. So everytime one of the kids got sick , I said,
"You're not sick. You're ok." And usually they were. Then too,
there was all that poison ivy that wove a mat across the pasture
and ditches and trees. Everytime I got one little bubble of ivy
trouble, I'd look at it and say, "Go away." And usually it did.
I recently saw a documentary on Link TV about a tribe in Africa
that never experienced sickness and when they were asked how that
was possible, the natives said they just said "No" to
sickness. That's kinda my attitude about the pizzas and the Mexican
food, I just tell my stomoach, "No!"
chicken wings' Deep fry a batch of chicken wings. Nothing added.
Just fry Mix melted butter with Frank's red hot sauce and add to
fried chicken wings. Eat till you're full.
Eli Painted Crow and Badger
Woman create ritual for the interfaith Mother's Day ceremony
in DC, May 15, 2006.
By Eli Painted Crow
Wisdom is sometimes found in the challenges that the Universe brings
before us to make us strong in the places where we are weak, and
to remind us that we need each other to create change.
I would like to offer my gratitude to CODEPINK
for allowing me to voice what is in my heart for my compatriots
still serving in Iraq. I am honored to share the gifts I have received
throughout my journey with CODEPINK,
and my perspective of the events that occurred over the last week
during the Troops Home Fast action held in San Francisco. Rae does
a wonderful job at coordinating and her openness to receive different
points of views is one of the reasons I am proud to support this
I honor those who have fasted; I could only fast for the first
24 hours, as my health and medications would not allow more than
this. Fasting for me is a time of prayer and holding energy with
others who by their sacrifice make this event very sacred. Thank
you all for holding the energy of peace and life in this sacred
act that continues.
The first day of our Troops Home Fast event began next to Senator
Dianne Feinstein's new home, where I learned how little our elected
representative really understands the word Peace. What used to be
a beautiful public park adjacent to the Senator's new home is now
a patch of dirt drained of its energy and life, surrounded only
by stepping stones and walls. I am sad to see that Feinstein has
taken this destructive action at the once lovely site ironically
name Peace Park without considering others. This is a clear picture
of the level of Spiritual Consciousness she holds in her heart.
I offer this reminder: Politicians hold the highest position
of Spiritual Consciousness because they serve the public. They are
the voice for the people and the only way they can truly represent
us with integrity and truth is to listen and take right action that
serves the highest good for all people.
The Senator's new home is near a family of trees where the crows
reside. They too participated in our event. I found it interesting
that the crows left when two local politicians spoke in support
of us, and returned when they left. Hmmm… is there a message
in that, I wonder? Crows for me hold the medicine of truth and are
the sentinels of the earth. How appropriate that they should reside
there to keep a watchful eye and speak to Senator Feinstein each
The following morning after we spent the night outside Feinstein's
new home, we moved to Feinstein's office in downtown San Francisco.
I was uplifted by those who came to help with our vigil and those
who took time to stop for a few moments to support Peace during
their busy day. My good friend and sister Sureya Sayadi joined me
for this whole Troops Home Fast experience. Sharing space with Sureya,
I find many commonalities in our cultures-she is a Kurdish Iraqi
and I am a Native American-and find that together we are very strong
in so many ways. I offer my deepest gratitude to her for pushing
me along to heal myself through these actions for Peace. I believe
that we-Sureya and I-are the example that an American soldier and
an Iraqi woman are uniting to bring this understanding that we are
On the last day of the weeklong vigil outside Feinstein's office,
after getting no response from the office all week, a group of us
made plans to enter the Senator's office bearing gifts and peacefully
asking to be received. The security guard greeting us attempted
to assist us in gaining permission to enter her office. Upon the
declination of our request by her office, I called the office to
personally inquire about the reasons for this decision. I was shocked
to hear that a soldier who serves for 22 years and stands for freedom
could be denied the right to speak with her Senator or an aide.
My persistent sister, Sureya, called the Senator's office immediately
after I hung up and spoke with gentle words and questions to the
listener on the other end. The results were that not one but two
representatives made an appearance in the lobby of the building.
They accepted the gifts we brought with assurance that the Senator
is voicing bringing the troops home.
We requested that the Senator provide her signature on the bills
supporting the return of our troops to demonstrate that her actions
are congruent with her words as we want to be assured of her integrity
as a public servant. I believe this peaceful action of requesting
rather than demanding and providing a gift for the sake of peace
makes it possible to create dialogue without defensiveness, allowing
heartfelt words to be exchanged respectfully. Often, it's not what
you do or say, but how you do or say that makes the difference.
We never know how a gesture, facial expression or a word we might
speak will impact another's heart. The power of language creates
and destroys. We use words but rarely do we really understand the
essence of their meaning. In this work, it is important that we
look at how we practice what we speak through our actions. The word
Peace is very powerful, but you cannot give away what you do not
have for yourself.
There are many organizations striving for the same goal: Peace.
For the sake of all children and our future, I humbly ask all organizations
to come together in mind, body, and most importantly spirit (this
is our source of strength) on the International Day of Peace, September
21, 2006 in Washington DC. Through these connections we will gain
understanding and demonstrate to our government what serving the
whole looks like.
Thank You for providing purpose to my return from Iraq. Peace
is Patriotic and I choose to be a Warrior for Peace for all my suffering
children. This must be what it takes to understand there is
enough for everyone to live. Let's give meaning to life instead
Eli Painted Crow is a veteran of the Iraq war. She served
in the military for over 22 years. She is now speaking up for peace
and justice, and an end to the US occupation of Iraq.
I am now back home after seeing the Troops Home Fast travel from
San Francisco, to Davis, to Sacramento and to Lake Tahoe. It has
been exhilarating and powerful. I am amazed at how our web of fasters
is weaving itself. I decided to go to San Francisco to be with my
pink sisters, who I am missing so much, for the welcome home party
for Di Fi. Due to a road closure from an accident I missed the Amtrak
and the camp out. I arrived on the second day of camp DiFi. Where
I made some herbal tea and hung out with Janet, Erin, Rae, Sureya,
Renay and a few others who stopped by from time to time. After we
broke camp for the night, Renay, Sureya and I went to the Labor
Film Fest and were enchanted by Julius, Whose life story as a labor
activist is chronicled in fellow musician George's (of George
and Julius) film.
The following day I went with Rae and Karen to Davis to pass on
the fast to Davis Code Pinksters. We broke bread to symbolize the
ending and beginning of fasting. (See Rae's blog). I then continued
on to Sacramento to visit my family and get some pink support out
for Victor Copeland, an amazing young man who fasted for five days
on the steps of the state capital. I learned that hunger strikes
are not permitted on state property. In order to get a permit Victor
had to submit to some conditions that had to be listed on the sign
he used. He had to agree to drink ample liquids and eat a bowl of
rice every evening. On Monday morning before returning home I went
to bring the fast to Victor. Jo, a Sacramento Pinkster, and my dear
friend and fellow activist MK came out to fast, as did Mark from
Davis. I stayed most of the morning and passed the fast, again breaking
Saturday I went to Kiva Beach in South Lake Tahoe to fast by the
waters of beautiful, sacred Tahoe. I had hoped to get some local
media coverage but was unsuccessful. I also hoped to get others
out but again no luck. On woman, Lorrie attempted to join me but
was unable to find parking on a hot Saturday afternoon at the height
of tourist season. For the most part I was ignored. Only a couple
of people came and talked to me. I was beginning to feel as if I
were intruding on everyone's carefree Tahoe vacation with a
dose of reality they most likely didn't want to think about.
Folks around these parts are pretty much into the feel good lifestyle
and don't want to face anything that might cause one to think
too deeply. About 5 pm Victor, wearing a bright Code Pink tee shirt,
his fiancé Shannon and MK showed up with the banner that
was carried from San Francisco to Davis to Sacramento and bread
to pass on the fast. We hung out and swam and talked for a while
before our little ceremony. We formed a little circle next to the
water under pine trees. We grounded and gave our intentions for
peace and healing of the planet, gathering power and inspiration
from the Lake and surrounding mountains to help us in our intentions
of bringing peace and healing to our traumatized Mother Earth. After
we finished a man came up to us to thank us for what we are doing.
He urged us to keep our work going; he knows how important it is
as he spent many years in the military. It felt so amazing to us
to hear him express such feelings.
Sunday I went with a small group of people from Markleeville, the
county seat of the least populated county in California, who fasted
for the day, to the meadow at Grover Hot Springs State Park for
a vigil. I am planning to return to Lake Tahoe with our banner on
Tuesdays throughout the summer. I am also hoping that our fast and
banner can travel on to other places until September 21st. I have
been fasting now for 6 days total. I spent a few days eating one
small meal a day, mostly salads, and some fruit in between. I found
it difficult to be running all over the state while fasting. I have
been fasting for the past 3 days and feel great. Along with supporting
the fasters in DC I am fasting for the health of my spirit.
Marie Bravo, Code Pink Tahoe area
When I did my first hunger strike on a shrimp boat in Texas in
l991, an environmentalist friend said it was the stupidest thing
he had ever heard of. "Nobody does hunger strikes in Texas!" Still,
I sat, not eating, until a local shrimper threatened to throw me
overboard if I didn't get off his dang boat. I had never done a
hunger strike before. I was a woman shrimper. What the heck did
I know about civil disobedience? I grew up in the '60s all right,
but I wasn't a flower child. I was a solitary teen who loved hot
Texas bays and spent half my time sitting in the tide.
But there comes a time when the orthodox route takes you to a
place you're unwilling to go. In l991 it was toward a gigantic petrochemical
expansion by Formosa Plastics, a notorious polluter that was coming
to Texas. The hunger strike was my last ditch attempt to save my
A hunger strike comes from the heart. It isn't a coincidence
that Gandhi's hunger strikes were decided suddenly. The planning
might take some time, but the decision doesn't. Gandhi called it
"soul power." I didn't call it nothing back in 1991, but
I knew, intuitively, to NOT think long and hard about that hunger
strike. So, while I had no resources‹things like money and
people to support me‹I did have myself and a living, breathing
bay and so I started a hunger strike nobody believed in. That first
hunger strike succeeded beyond my wildest hopes‹well, good
enough that folks figgered a bold man must be behind me somewhere.
Now, fifteen years and seven hunger strikes later, I'm fixing
to start another hunger strike to save lives. Last May I joined
a CodePink Mother's Day vigil at the White House and walked in a
silent march to a big green field where thousands of boots representing
dead soldiers and dead Iraqi civilians lay. The most common sign
was "Out of Iraq, NOW. Peace, NOW." Every speech boiled down
to one message: Peace. Not tomorrow. Not in a year. NOW. Its pretty
much what Martin Luther King said when he called for freedom from
fear and oppression in the '70s. WE WANT IT NOW.
Those words echo polls that show a majority of Americans don't
want this war and want the troops to come home. Not because war
is too tough or that some folks are lily livered and want to cut
and run, but because this war is based on lies and a lot of tangled
agendas clearly having to do with oil. The question that remains
is: are those who want the killing to stop as committed to peace
as those who are committed to war. The war machine will certainly
commit the lives of our children and Iraqi children. But will we
commit our own lives? Would we exchange our lives for those of the
soldiers being shipped out or barricaded in the "Green Zone" in
Baghdad? Would we risk our lives so Iraqi children could live?
I grew up with a Pentecostal church nearly in my back yard, and
I've retained one thing besides the gospel singing: we are our brothers'
and our sisters' keepers. I find it baffling that with all the jostling
over who's side God is on or who's the better 'born again' fella,
nobody takes that peaceful phrase beyond the paper it is written
I was ten when John F Kennedy was inuagurated, and I remember
something he said that puzzled me at the time. He said, "Ask not
what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
Was he asking me to join the Peace Corps? I volunteered as an Army
medic during the Viet Nam War, but I don't think he was talking
about that. Forty-five years later, I know what Kennedy meant.
He believed that the potential greatness of this country starts
and ends with WE, THE PEOPLE. Not "We, the President." Not "We,
the Congress." Not "We, the corporations." That is why I am beginning
this hunger strike: to stop an insane war and bring the troops home,
and also to keep this country from going where we seem to be heading.
I believe it is better that we put our lives
on the line than that our children put their lives on the line.
It is better that we put our lives on the line than that
innocent Iraqi children give up their lives. If we can do this,
maybe, maybe, we can create a safe space where peace can grow. I
am not certain that this will happen, but I know that when we lose
ourselves, we find ourselves. And I'm willing to stake my life on
"A Felon for Peace"
Ann Wright being arrested on September 26th in front of the
White House along with 400 peace activists.
By Ann Wright
I'm on Day 10 of my fast to Bring Troops Home Now. I never thought
I could deprive my body of solid food for more than one or two days,
but a week and one-half later, my body is not signaling my mind
that it needs food. Of course, like most Americans, I had quite
a few extra pounds I was carrying around, and right before the fast
I was pigging out.
But it's not the pounds that are important, but rather the simple
act of not engaging in our current national sport, eating, instead
using the time that would be spent three or four times a day in
that act in another more useful act.
Not eating frees up a lot of time. You don't spend much time in
the grocery store, except for buying juices and health supplements.
No time for food preparation. Time with friends is not spent in
eating, but in talking and discussing critical issues of our time,
such how to put more pressure on the Bush administration and the
US Congress to end the war in Iraq to save tens of thousands of
Iraqi lives and thousands of American and coalition lives, how to
have fair trials for those in Guantanamo and administration secret
prisons throughout the world, how to restore civil liberties while
maintaining national security and how to restore domestic programs
reduced or closed by diversion of funds to administration corporations
in the war on Iraq. That's a lot to chew on, I would say!
Other than a small decrease in energy, I feel just fine. I don't
get hunger pains and my stomach doesn't rumble anymore. Around mealtimes,
I still have the habit of thinking I should be stopping to eat,
which brings a smile when I remember that I don't need much time
for that--just a sip of water or juice and I'm finished!
We now have over 3900 people who have signed up for the fast. There
are fasts going on in virtually every city in America. Fasters are
in ten other countries. Some are fasting for one day, some for one
day a week, some for two weeks and some have signed on to fast until
the war in Iraq ends. The length of the fast really does not matter.
What matters is that an individual has made the decision that she/he
will focus energy on an issue that is critical for the destiny of
America-ending the war on Iraq.
This summer we will have fasters at the Veterans for Peace Conference
in Seattle August 9-13, fasters at Camp Casey August 16-Sept 2 and
fasters at Camp Democracy in Washington, DC September 5-20. Fasters
will be in Washington, DC for September 21 and the following week
for the week of Civil Disobedience.
The commitment and dedication of fasters to an issue is a time
honored tradition. Governments and administrations have altered
policies due to fasters. In talking with veteran fasters Dick Gregory
who fasted over 2 years during the Vietnam War and Diane Wilson
who has fasted for environmental issues in Texas, fasting requires
patience, tolerance, and understanding of the psychological dimensions
of physical actions and their long-term effect on others. In the
beginning, many of those not on the fast, think the fasters are
crazy and stupid.
On July 25 in Lafayette Park in front of the White House Codepink
Women for Peace, and members of Gold star Families for Peace, Veterans
for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War and various Washington,
DC anti-war groups will have an International fasting day. We will
be joined by a woman member of the Canadian Parliament.
While in Washington, we are staying busy while fasting. One group
of fasters stays at Lafayette Park in front of the White House to
be a visible presence to President Bush and his administration.
We talk with hundreds of passers-by about the war.
Each day a group goes to Congress to talk with members of Congress
and their staff. We attend (and sometimes let our views be known-and
are arrested) in Congressional committee hearings. We may have on
orange Guantanamo suits to remind the Congress of lives affected
by administration policies on torture and unfair proceedings. I
being arrested for speaking my mind to the Senate Judiciary
committee during the confirmation hearing for William Haynes, an
architect of the Bush Administration's torture policy, for the 4th
Circuit Court of Appeals. (See
here for more)
In honor of another faster, Mitch Snyder, who fasted and chained
himself to the White House fence to gain a shelter for the homeless
in Washington, we are working with Andy Shallal of the great new
activist meeting place Busboys & Poets and with a local homeless
advocate, to get better awareness of the terrible conditions now
in the Mitch Snyder homeless shelter in Washington. We will have
a press conference at the shelter on Friday afternoon and then give
ice cream to the homeless in an "I Scream for Justice" action.
At the end of each day we all meet back at Lafayette Park for a
discussion of the day's events and to plan for the next day. Generally
we have a speaker from the DC area who provides us with information
on an important topic. We have had speak a law professor from UCLA
talk about the history of civil disobedience, an environmental activist
speak about the plight of indigenous people's who occupy land on
which the remaining resources of the world rest (using the example
of Ecuador) and an Iraqi citizen's perspective on the occupation
and on the Iraq 28 point peace plan that has gotten virtually no
publicity in the U.S.
Tuesday, July 10 - 11
Yesterday and today between 5-20 people at any given time were fasting
and vigiling outside Senator Dianne Feinstein's office here
in San Francisco. Janet spent some of her time at the vigil quilting.
Dianna, a member of Queers for Peace and Justice, stopped by and
lit up the streets of San Francisco with her radiant voice, singing
about peace! At 6 pm we were joined by a peace and spirituality
women's circle from the East Bay. They led a reclaiming ritual
and a women's circle. In the evening we also held a national
conference call with the fasters in DC and and over 25 people around
the country who gave us inspiring updates from local fasts happening
around the country!
Throughout our vigil we have created a pink satin banner with the
message: “Dear Dianne, Please bring our troops home fast!”
Passersby and vigil participants have signed messages to Dianne.
We will deliver this peace banner to her office tomorrow. In these
photos below, you can see some of the messages people wrote.
To play slide show: click
on image, to view 'next': click on the image top right... to view 'previous': click on the image top left...
Saturday at our SF fasting vigil the fasters held an open mike
for people to speak out about their feelings on the Iraq war. Sureya
was speaking when a mother and her two daughters were walking by
and she noticed that one daughter looked very sad so she invited
her to come and sign the banner for Feinstein, and they did. The
little girl kept looking at Sureya as she was talking about people
being injured or killed in the war, so she invited the little girl
to speak. When the girl took the mike, she started crying, and the
mike was so loud that her tears reached everyone crossing the streets.
The girl said that the war is wrong, that children are dying, and
that she didn't want war, that every child has a right to live
in peace. Then she hugged Sureya, who also had tears in her eyes.
A homeless man commented on the beauty of the writing of this family
on the banner, and then he took the mike and spoke out about bringing
the troops home from all foreign occupations. Sureya also told me
that she met many homeless vets while vigiling on the streets. Our
local vigil also aims to connect the local cost of war to our city's
inhabitants—looking at our inability to provide adequate healthcare
and housing for all because of our enormous expenses on the war.
A group of Bay Area CODEPINKers—Janet,
Christina, my mom Karen, and I—drove up to Davis to ignite
the spark of the fast there. We set up a booth at the local Farmer's
Market with CODEPINK Davis and collected
signatures on the Voters for Peace Pledge. We had our photos taken
with self-made signs about why we were against the war for a website
that documents images of Americans for peace. We talked with many
of the produce vendors, including grandma Pilar of “Pilar's
Famous Tamales” who told us about how she prayed the rosary
until her son came back from his 4th tour of Iraq, and then prayed
intensely that he would not have to return for another tour of duty.
She affirmed the power of peace and prayer. Many people were receptive
to the message, and some people even supported the cause by donating
juice! One man, Saleem, who works for East and West Gourmet Afghan
Food, was wearing a pink shirt so I
asked him if he would take the pledge. He was really supportive
of CODEPINK, and gave me a flat bread
to eat when breaking my fast. (See photo of Rae and Saleem in this
Well, I must admit that it is one thing to be fasting in downtown
SF amidst all the car exhaust, the fast food chains, and the skyscrapers...
But it is a whole other thing to fast at an organic farmer's
market!! Everything smelled and looked delicious, and the whole
time I was walking around with my satin “fasting for peace”
sign across my belly, so no food for me! It was tempting, but I
actually discovered that there are more ways to experience so much
succulent food than just wanting to purchase and eat it. Just knowing
it is there, and wanting it to be available for everyone, was a
As the farmer's market began to close, CODEPINK
gathered in a circle on the deck overlooking the market and we went
around in a circle and shared our reasons for fasting. Then CODEPINK
Davis coordinator Natalie passed a loaf of challah bread to my mom,
Karen, to symbolically break our fast and start theirs. Natalie
and her husband Ben gave us an “Impeach 4 Peace” pink
shirt to take back to SF. Then we parted with Marie, who went up
to Sacramento to help organize the fast that will start Monday there,
and made our way back to SF. Along the way I dropped off our signed
Voters for Peace petitions at Elisa's house—Elisa is a
mother with two little kids and she's been fasting for several
days. Because of work and parenting commitments, she can't
attend our vigil, so she offered to help with data entry and typed
in all the signatures. This is the ripple effect of this vigil—we
are all chipping in in whatever way we can to make this a meaningful
and successful action—I have never felt as strong a network
of women working for peace in the Bay Area as I do now.
Women in Pink UNITE!
Sunday, July 9
Today, Renay started out the vigil bravely solo. I joined her around
9:30 am just in time to see the streets flooded with women in pink!
No, it was not a spontaneous CODEPINK
convergence outside Feinstein's... It was the Avon Breast Cancer
walk. They were walking right by our vigil, so I put on the Feinstein
outfit, and Renay grabbed a stack of flyers and started shouting,
“Boobs not Bombs!” at all the passersby. I was quite popular
with the marchers, garnering snickers and even getting to take a
few photos with the women. They took many of our flyers. When I
was getting ready to leave the vigil, Krissy Kiefer joined it. The
fast group grew as the day progressed. I went to a doula class that
I am taking, to become an assistant to women giving birth, and at
our class, which lasted all afternoon, we had a potluck. I decided
to break my fast with the women in my class, symbolically nourishing
my body as I nourish my vision of supporting women not only politically,
but interpersonally as well, and the idea of peace beginning at
birth. I have learned through the course of my heart—from relationships
to the heartbreak of realizing that the president made no effort
at all to collect, or even acknowledge, our Women Say No to War
petitions last March—that what is broken creates new openings
for greater love and dedication, and I plan to resume my fast in
the coming days. After class, I returned to our pink hq here in
SF, where I spent the night talking with Sureya about the coming
week of our vigil, and outreaching to people around the country
about our Troops Home Fast.
Today was our first day fasting outside our senator, Dianne Feinstein's
office in downtown San Francisco. We had about 10-20 fasters throughout
the day, and we lined the gate behind our vigil with pink banners
and peace ribbons. We put out a big pink satin fabric and invited
people to sign it with messages of peace that we can deliver to
Feinstein. We put out a table with buttons and clipboards with the
Voters for Peace pledge. Jes set up the Gandhi puppet prominently
on the corner. Sureya and her 16 year old son, Jheeran, joined us.
In the morning we had several TV stations visit our vigil, and one
station, Channel 4, stayed for an hour, following me around throughout
my interactions with passersby, and filming the interaction between
Iraq war vet and peace activist Eli Painted Crow, and a bike messenger
guy, who was also a military vet and initially was very opposed
to our presence, and then had a really long discussion with us about
how angry he is about the war. In the afternoon, Eli got on the
microphone and started speaking to San Franciscans about her experiences
in war, her life teachings, and why it is important to stand up
for peace. When Eli speaks, people listen. In the late afternoon,
Univision, the Spanish speaking news station, came out and interviewed
us again. I got some food poisoning, I believe from a spoiled juice,
as I was fasting, and I was throwing up between interviews and finally
went home. I guess that was a cleansing way to begin my fast—getting
it all out of my system! I slept very well that night, and dreamed
that Gandhi was alive and walking through the streets of SF with
Day #2 Friday, July 7
Today we were outside Senator Feinstein's office for our second
day of the vigil. We met many interesting people who work in the
area or are tourists from faraway places. We collected hundreds
of signatures on the Voters for Peace pledge.
We have realized two things about our fast after our first two
days: we were so surprised by how many people were eager to sign
onto our Voters for Peace pledge; and we had transformative conversations
with people from all walks of life, including our new friend Sam
who sells the Street Sheet and wore a pink shirt to our vigil on
the second day, a tall man in a suit who saw the vigil and then
rushed away and returned an hour later with photocopied pages from
a book with essays on Gandhi by Tolstoy, a group of young people
from the Ukraine who are working in SF for the summer and shared
their experiences of anti-war rallies in their country with us,
and a man who took out his cell phone and called Feinstein's
office to tell her to stop supporting the war right there on the
spot. We've also discovered a lot of apathy in our fellow San
Franciscans, and frankly, some folks have no hope in Feinstein,
saying that she's married to a war profiteer and she could
care less about her constituents. Others are less informed on Feinstein's
record, and more inclined to tell us that individually we don't
have the power to change anything. One woman said that what Cindy
did at Crawford last summer was really something, but now with the
Bush admin. and the corporate media, nothing's going to change.
These kinds of interactions really enforce my own beliefs about
how important it is to not give into the fear-mongering this administration
has become so good at. That's my favorite thing about CODEPINK—brave
women (and allies) around the country standing up to the fear-based
color-coded alerts and reclaiming the vibrant power of pink protest.
Midday we were joined by Marie, the CODEPINK
Lake Tahoe coordinator, who took the train all the way down to spend
time with us. Marie brought banners and a tea pot with green tea
that she made with the heat of the sun. Marie always brings creativity
and high energy to any action and we were very lucky to have her
with us. Irene brought fresh lemons from her tree for everyone to
put in their water. This is how our vigil has been—people spontaneously
bring exactly what we need. I put out an email urgently asking people
to help with the last minute details for our kick off action on
Wednesday, and it all came together: Janet got the food, Vicki coordinated
the speakers, Sam and Erin made press calls, Eli wrote a press release
and picked up supplies, In the evening Sureya and I were interviewed
by IndyBay for an hour. You
can hear us on air by clicking here.
of CODEPINK LA, and her mom.
Frances worked for Winnograd's campaign against Jane
Harman and shared the success of that campaign with us—the
way that it influenced Harman to take on a stronger peace
platform after the primaries. To
view entire slide show, click here!
San Francisco Weeklong Rolling Fast Kicks Off
Outside Senator's House
CODEPINK Bay Area started a weeklong
relay fast asking Senator Dianne Feinstein to bring our troops home
Fast. We started our fast at the site of our senator's new
home in the richest neighborhood in SF. The house's front door
faces a public park, where we pitched tents and camped overnight.
Our opening press conference garnered a lot of media attention,
over 100 people, and included the following speakers: Iraq war veteran
Eli Painted Crow; Iraqi activist Sureya Sayadi; Samina Faheem Sundas,
founder of American Muslim Voice; San Francisco City Supervisors
Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi; Patricia Ellsberg; Vivian Fiere,
who spoke about a recent death of an Iraqi friend; Patricia St.
Onge, a Native American activist. Before the press conference, fasters
ate a “fast supper” generously donated by the Catholic
Worker, and sung with musicians from Queers for Peace and Justice.
As nighttime commenced, fasters set up “Camp DiFi” with
tents, banners, and lanterns. Police stayed watching the fasters
all night long, just to make sure we didn't try to sleep in
Feinstein's new abode, perhaps. Or, maybe they were trying
to protect us from angry neighbors... Actually, residents were a
mixed bag in terms of their political views. One man paused in his
morning jog to swear at us and scorn our being there, and when he
was later interviewed by the press, who were eager to get an opposition
view, he didn't say anything bad about our politics or implying
that he was pro-war, he was more appalled that Feinstein had moved
into the community, uprooted a public garden, and was now attracting
the attention of protesters. In the morning, we circled around a
peace sign that had been lit with candles the night before, and
we restated our reasons for fasting. We hope to feature some of
these reasons in upcoming blogs. We were interviewed by more news
stations in the morning. Then we caravaned to Feinstein's office
to set up our weeklong vigil outside her building.
The following is a report back from Celeste, who is an active
Bay Area CODEPINK woman from Petaluma,
CA and participated in Mother's Day Month actions in Washington,
DC, with comments added in from Rae:
July 5 Rally at Dianne Feinstein's Home in S.
F. (DiFi Action)
About 100 people gathered at Dianne Feinstein's new mansion in Pacific
Heights in S. F. on Wednesday, July 5, to kick off the DiFi Action
planned in solidarity with our national fast to bring the "troops
Rae of Code Pink
national, the co-ordinator, oriented us by answering 3 questions:
1) Why protest Dianne Feinstein; 2) why protest at this site; 3)
and why protest by fasting.
Answers: Why fast? Fasting has long been used in protests to show
seriousness and make sacrifice for causes. As examples, Gandhi fasted
and many fasted for women's rights and to end the Vietnam War.
Why Dianne? While she has done some good things for citizens,
Senator Feinstein did not sign on to the Kerry bill to withdraw
the troops (or any other proposal). As senior and respected senator
from California, the 6th largest economy in the world, she can wield
powerful influence to stop the war and she's not doing it. And,
she's a woman and a Democrat from a state where the majority
of the people, like elsewhere in the country, want the troops to
come home! Dianne voted for the invasion of Iraq and continues to
fund the war; she is one of the top 10 Democrats in the US Congress
who take significant sums of money from big oil corporations to
finance their campaigns; and her husband has profited from the Iraq
war with multi-million dollar reconstruction grants. Feinstein stated
two weeks ago: “The time has come for a phased redeployment
to finally begin. In my view, an open-ended commitment is no longer
sustainable in Iraq.” All this considered, we are appealing
to Dianne's heart and asking her to follow her recent words
of wisdom and bring the troops home... Fast!
Why here?Dianne's new mansion
is adjacent to a small public park that runs up the hill, including
a lovely small square that was once a beautiful public garden. This
adjoins her home like a side yard, and she took out the garden to
replant to her taste. This caused controversy. We assert our rights
as citizens to this small piece of land amidst the extraordinary
affluence of Pacific Heights. Rae said, “Diane Feinstein seems
more concerned about rebuilding this leveled garden than rebuilding
the country we leveled—Iraq!”
We decorated the square with banners and most notably the large
and majestic puppet of Gandhi, brought by the Gandhi Peace Brigade
and the puppet creator, Jes. After songs and a few speeches and
introductions, we shared a delicious meal donated by the Catholic
Then Eli Painted Crow, an Iraqi war veteran and spiritual leader,
led us in sanctifying the ground and opening our hearts in prayer
for our cause and the people opposing it. Notable speakers were:
Samina Faheem Sundas of Muslim Voices; Dr. Sureya Sayadi, Iraq activist;
two S. F. Supervisors: Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi; and Patricia
Ellsberg, wife of Daniel Ellsberg, who is fasting in front of the
White House in Washington with Medea Benjamin, Dick Gregory, and
other leaders and citizens. Susan Sarandon, Diane Wilson, and others,
a total of about 3,000 persons are fasting. The event included a
press conference with several outlets present.
Celeste left as a sharing circle to close the vigil was taking place
before vigilers prepared for their sleepover at the site. During
the next few days, fasters wearing "Troops Out Fast" buttons
and signs will be protesting daily at Senator Feinstein's office
at 1 Post Street in S F.
Actions We are asking People to Take:
Come to the daily vigil at Feinsteins's Office, Post &
8:00a.m. until 8:00p.m. from now until the 12th - see the calendar
for latest info.
Call Senator Feinstein at her local office at 415.393.0707
and ask for her to do what she can to bring the troops home, specifically
to sign on to Senator Harkin's bill.
Sign the Voters Peace Pledge—we aim to collect 1,000 signatures
on the Voters Pledge by the end of the vigil.
Wear a button
or sign to let the world know you are part of the "Troops
Out Fast" sponsored by Code Pink.
We made “Fasting for Peace” square pink satin banners
to pin to our shirts and wear every day. If fasting is not right
for you, participate in the event by supporting the fasters with
your presence, signage, and donations.
When I was in Iraq I used to dream of going on with my life. I
used to dream about what it would be like to go back to school and
settle into a job of teaching. What I could never dream was the
nightmares which will now forever haunt me. What I could never have
imagined was how my life would never be the same after a single
tour in combat. The Geoff Millard of 2005 is gone but the man I
have become is a shining example of how ones soul can truly change.
I could not have imagined that my life would be forever inspired
by a new group of people. You asked for things that inspire well
for me I never found faith in the proverbial fox hole but I did
find inspiration in a TX ditch.
I find CodePink inspirational. I find
women who can go into my nightmare and find people they love inspirational.
I find a grieving mom who finds the strength to stand and yell NO
MORE inspirational. I find young women who could go off to college
and make tons of money but instead care enough to bring my brothers
and sisters home inspirational. I with all do respect need no songs
or passages to inspire
me I will have you to do that! It is an honor and privilege to fast
with you, sit with you and if need be an honor to go to jail with
I needed this surge of energy…I have been so depressed by
the news these days, the death, the lies, the arrogance, the disregard
for anything with integrity, beauty and humanity.
When Diane Wilson calls a hunger strike I am there. There is a
commitment she brings that I will follow anywhere. My first hunger
strike with her was just about now, 4 years ago…oh dear could
it really be 4 years ago?? We were in the beastly hot south Texas
heat in the back of her truck outside the Dow chemical plant. It
was a powerful week I spent with her, in the middle of her hunger
strike. I got quite thin, quite weak and very empowered. We won,
she led a hunger strike that stopped India from giving Dow Chemical
a pass on the 20,000 who died in Bhopal. Many of us just supported
as fasters, thousands from around the world, including members of
The next hunger strike I joined her in was the start of CODEPINK,
it was a vigil and hunger strike outside the White House. The hunger
strike ended when she was arrested Thanksgiving eve, no one cared,
she restricted from DC for a year. Next we went to Iraq in February
and sharing that experience with her deepened it for all of us.
A few days before Camp Casey Diane had sent a request that we let
the Texas CODEPINK women know Cindy
was going to the Bush Ranch in Crawford. Saturday I got a call from
Diane sitting in a ditch outside the Bush ranch…"Cindy
just sat down and said she ain't leaving and I ain't eating".
So I quit eating again, got on a plane to Crawford and the work
we had been doing for almost 3 years catapulted to the front pages,
to Time magazine, Vanity Fair and O, places we never thought we
could read about the Iraq war.
I love following Diane into this hunger strike which will carry
into Camp Casey. I have experienced the power of both Diane and
Cindy and can't imagine what might be in store next. In a quiet
moment the other morning I thought it would be great if we could
get the President of Iraq to come to Camp Casey to walk with Cindy
to Bush's ranch again, to knock on the door, and ask what was
the noble cause that Casey Sheehan died for and over 100,000 innocent
Iraqi died for. That happened before I started the FAST, let's
think big while we are fasting, let's bring the troops home, let's
show those around us what it takes to get serious about the senseless
death, destruction and stupidity that invading and occupying Iraq
is. Let's bring America back to her senses. I am inspired by
the commitment of the 3,000 people who have joined in so
far, I know those of us who fast to support the hunger strikers
give the support they need to push for the transformation the country
The rockets red glare,
Bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that
Star spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free,
And the home of the brave.
The star spangled banner has been in the news quite a lot lately.
Some "courageous" Senators, including one of my own, Dianne
Feinstein and everyone's favorite left-wing liberal, Hillary Clinton,
bravely stuck their necks out to support an amendment that would
make it illegal to burn the flag of the USA under certain circumstances.
Heaven forbid one of these pussillanimous public servants introduce,
or even support a bill, that would call for an immediate end to
the occupation of Iraq…or to even require that the President
set a timeline for the withdrawal of our troops from a deadly quagmire
of an occupation while they are handing him more money to wage the
war crime in Iraq. As our nation's children are trying to only survive
in the worst of circumstances, and by surviving are committing reprehensible
atrocities on an innocent population which (especially in Ramadi
right now) is having bombs burst in air all around them, that our
Senate would even consider taking away first amendment rights from
Americans is wretchedly ironic. Call me naïve, but I always
thought that we elected our representatives to protect our rights,
not take them away from us.
When I look at the star spangled banner I think of my son who began
wearing a uniform with the flag on it from the time he went into
scouting at the age of 6. I also think of one of the last pictures
taken of Casey when he was awaiting deployment to Iraq from Kuwait.
He was standing in a tent holding a bottle of water, wearing his
desert cammies with an American flag patch on the chest. When we
buried him a few weeks after that picture was taken, I was handed
a folded flag which reminded me of the swaddling blanket that I
wrapped him in to bring him home from the hospital almost 25 years
The star-spangled banner, which I can now see whipping in the wind
outside of an airport terminal where I am writing this from does
not fill me with pride: it fills me with shame and that flag symbolizes
sorrow and corruption to me right now. The flag represents so much
lying, fixed elections, profiting by the war machine, high gas prices,
spying on Americans, rapid erosion of our freedoms while BushCo
literally gets away with murder, torture and extreme rendition,
contaminating the world with depleted uranium, and illegal and immoral
wars that are responsible for killing so many. A symbol which used
to represent hope to so many around the world now fills so many
I often get told that I should "love America, or leave it."
This is ridiculous logic and empty rhetoric. I love the country
that I was born in and I love Americans…I am an American and
so are my children. Casey was born and died a fine American who
was abused by the same leaders that are abusing the world as I type.
I could leave if I wanted to and, in fact, have received many offers
to be an ex-patriate in many friendly countries. However, I want
to stay and fight for my country. I want my country and the flag
that symbolizes it around the globe to stand for something that
we can all be proud of again.
BushCo and the neocon regime embarked on this disastrous misadventure
in Iraq to prove to the world how strong and virile Pax Americana
is. Their abjectly failed mission, which was evil and corrupt from
the beginning, has not proven how strong our nation is, but, on
the contrary, how weak. However, the neocons have managed to prove,
that how, with the "mightiest" war machine in the world
an insurgency in a country smaller than the state of California
can hold their false freedom and deadly democracy at bay. One other
thing that the neocons have proven is that America is no longer
the moral touchstone of the world but is a nation that commits torture
and crimes against humanity with the presidential seal of approval.
BushCo has destroyed any credibility our nation ever had in the
world and all of us need to fight to regain it and thereby redeem
our own souls.
I implore you, while you are enjoying your potato salad and fireworks
on the 4th to reflect on what the star-spangled banner means to
you. If our flag symbolizes the same thing to you as it does to
the neocons, then by all means, enlist and go to Iraq to let some
of our soldiers come home that are tired of suffering and committing
war crimes for Halliburton, Dick and Donny.
If, however, you realize that the flag no longer waves "o'er
the land of the free" and you would like it to again, we invite
you to come out to Camp Casey this summer and help us fight for
the heart and soul of our nation. If you realize that while you
are "oohing and ahing" over the pretty fireworks in your
home town that there are real bombs bursting on the people of Iraq,
killing them and destroying their nation for no reason other than
Dick Cheney wanted to, then you need to digest your 4th of July
BBQ and get out and show Dicky and the world that we mean business
when we say we want our troops to come home to save them and our
brothers and sisters in Iraq.
Thousands of peace loving and war hating members of the human race
from all over the world are planning on coming to Crawford, Tx
to Camp Casey again this summer to stand, sit, or camp in the
face of the neocon war machine and prove to the world that there
are Americans who will courageously speak for the people of Iraq
and our soldiers who have no voices but who just want to be left
Come to Camp Casey.
We have room for everyone and everyone is welcome.
I had volunteered to be in charge of the spiritual part of the
fast, the half-hour in the morning that we ground ourselves in what
we're doing and why. Some of the CODEPINKers
laughed when I volunteered for this, thinking that I'm not very
religious and that perhaps the priest would be a better spiritual
guide for us. But the one part of the fast I am looking forward
to is the spiritual part-deepening our own commitment to ending
violence, forming stronger bonds as a community.
It's true I don't participate in organized religion and tear my
hair out at new age spirituality that's not grounded in the here
and now. But Gandhi said, "I call that man religious who understands
the suffering of others." Those of us who not only understand
that suffering but try to alleviate it are deeply religious, whether
we acknowledge it in a formal way or not.
I didn't have a lot of time to spend searching for good spiritual
material, so I contacted a few colleagues for advice. One is Kristi
Laughlin, a good friend who used to work with CODEPINK
until she decided to go to Theology School..
Kristi wrote back write immediately,
I love it! You are unearthing that spiritual guru in you.
I knew it was just a matter of time :-)
Actually, I do not have a lot of resources on hand. I have
been meaning to seek out just what you mentioned--a good book
full of all kinds of spiritual stuff. I think the stuff I have
tends to be a little too Catholic. But I know folks at school
would often use selections from these books:
1 - Earth Prayers From around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and
Invocations for Honoring the Earth, by Elizabeth Roberts
2 - Peace Prayers: Meditations, Affirmations, Invocations, Poems,
and Prayers for Peace by Harper San Francisco Staff
Even after theology school, I am still not much for the
Bible. The only passage I consistently gravitate to are the Beatitudes.
So I have attached that with just a couple of prayers that I like.
My favorite prayer (besides the Prayer of St. Francis) is the
Prayer of Oscar Romeo, which is not written by him but somehow
attributed to him and in his spirit. That is attached too.
For more ritualistic purposes, it is always nice to do
a Litany---of names with responses. That is very Catholic! And
is very common, as you know, in the Central American Solidarity
movement with calling out "Presente!" But you can create
any appropriate call and response for a litany you create.
And one of my favorite songs that is essentially a prayer
is: Solo le Pido a Dios. You must know that song too. I bet Mercedes
Sosa has done a version. The lyrics are attached. And for a more
inspirational kind of simple song that can be sung in a round
is "Step by Step"
Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won
Many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none
And by union what we will, can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill, singly none singly none
Good luck with the fast!!!!
Much love, Kristi
Another friend I contacted was Deborah Kory, who worked
with the progressive Jewish group Tikkun before returning to school
as well. I told her that I, the semi-atheist, was in charge of the
daily spiritual openings and needed nice things to read or sing.
Here's her response:
That is HILARIOUS! I don't think I've ever heard someone
call themselves a "semi-atheist." Does that make you
an agnostic? Can't get the God out of the Jew? Or is it more like
a what-happened-before-the-big-bang kind of thing?
So, you are in charge of the morning invocation....I'd
love to help you with this. I'm assuming you're wanting some universal
we-are-all one themes, but maybe also some voices from different
faiths. I will look through my "spiritual" archives
for stuff to bring to you.
I just had a long conversation with Patricia Ellsberg [wife
of Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, who will be participating
in the fast] who had a great idea to collect the readings and
morning invocations and also ask the fasters who are the people
and what are the writings that have inspired them to acts of nonviolent
civil disobedience and then to put together some kind of anthology
that Code Pink could use and sell to further its message.
I really believe in what you're doing and I think the hunger
strike has the potential to be really impactful...
Love and Blessings for the journey,
So already, before we have even started the fast, a good idea has
On the plane to DC, I found a great feast of inspiration. Just
this week, Alice Walker's publisher had sent me a manuscript
of her new book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For:
Light in a Time of Darkness. Alice has been a great supporter
of CODEPINK. She was with us at our
big march on International Women's Day, March 8, 2003, right before
the war began. She wrote a beautiful essay about her experience
that I have taken inspiration from ever since. And when we asked
her to do a solidarity fast with the long-term fasters, she wrote
back this lovely message:
YES, YES, AND YES SOME MORE. I WILL START WITH YOU ON THE 4TH;
ALWAYS HATE TO EAT ON THAT DAY ANYWAY!
I loved the message, especially that it was all in caps.
When Alice's new manuscript arrived, I decided to save it for the
plane ride. And wouldn't you know--it turned out to be exactly what
I'd been searching for. I eagerly devoured the book, selecting the
passages I thought would best speak to the fasters.
There was a brilliant essay on the need to stop, sit and reflect
called All Praises to the Pause: The Universal Moment of Reflection.
Part of it talks about menopause as such a moment of reflection.
I'm not sure how that section will go over with Father Louie, the
soldiers and the Iraqi men joining the fast, but the CODEPINK
women will love it. And there's a wonderful poem that will work
just perfectly for July 4. It's a poem for The Patriot that says
can you show your love for America by loving AMERICANS, like the
grandfather with the eagle feather in his braid and the man with
the rosepink turban and the sister on the bus with the nappy hair.
"Love us. We are the flag," she says. Perfect for
July 4th in Washington DC.
Landing in DC, I turned on my cell phone. There was a message from
my husband, Kevin, who is fasting in solidarity from our home in
San Francisco and had been helping me put together some spiritual
essays, like a great one we found by Wendall Berry called
The Failure of War. Kevin grew up Catholic and rejected the
traditional church but is very spiritual. He loves Jesus the revolutionary
and quotes him all the time.
"I just wanted to wish you good luck, baby,"
his message said. "And I was thinking on the ride home how
the fundamentalists believe in God, too, but they reject science-they
reject evolution,deny global warming. We embrace religion AND
science, which is what the planet needs right now to survive.
And we also believe in true democracy-rule by the people. You
are practicing real democracy-that's why you're fasting. I'm proud
I guess I'd just add that what distinguishes us from fundamentalists
is also that we love all people, believers and non-believers, no
matter where they were born, what borders they crossed, how much
money they have or what color they are. The grandfather with the
eagle feather, the man with the rosepink turban, the sister on the
bus with the nappy hair. One love.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Let the fasting begin…
I must admit that ever since Mother's Day, when we made the decision
to launch this fast on July 4 (I should say ever since Diane Wilson
made the decision for us!), I've had a feeling of anticipation
mixed with dread. I don't even like the thought of fasting
for a day, much less an open-ended fast. I get hungry if I haven't
had lunch by 1pm. And although I'm tiny (I've been just
over 100 pounds my whole adult life), I eat a lot.
A few weeks ago Father Louis—a wonderful Franciscan priest--came
into our office in San Francisco. He was skinny as a rail, having
lost 30 pounds in prison where he spent 4 months protesting the
military training school known as the School of the Americas. Despite
being so thin and just out of jail, as soon as we told him about
the fast he agreed to join us. We told him to eat up, and handed
him a bag of chocolate-covered raisins. “Yes,”
he said, munching on the raisins, “ you know first you use
up the fat and when there's no fat left, your body starts eating
the muscle. And your heart's a muscle.”
Wow, that was all I needed to hear. I started preparing for the
fast—by eating. I ate desserts like chocolate cheesecake that
I don't even like, I ate lots of pasta, I snacked on nuts.
I ate all the food on my plate, and then everybody's leftovers.
My stomach got so big that Cindy Sheehan started calling me Miss
Chubby. But at least I now have some padding before getting down
to the heart!
I've only fasted once before in my life. That was in Chiapas,
Mexico, in 1994, just after the uprising of the Zapatistas. The
government was threatening to send thousands of soldiers to the
region to quash the rebellion. Having seen the slaughter of thousands
of indigenous people in Guatemala over the years, I was terrified
that the same was about to happen in Mexico. When I heard that the
Catholic Bishop in Chiapas, Don Samuel Ruiz, was about to embark
on a fast to keep the military out, I jumped on a plane to Chiapas
to join. I was the only non-Mexican among the 12 fasters, and the
only Jew among the priests and nuns. It was an intense experience
living in the Cathedral, sleeping in the pews, fasting and praying.
The Mexican government was chastened by the sacrifice of the much-loved
Bishop and 11 days later, they sent the military back to their barracks
and we ended the fast in jubilation.
This fast we are starting on July 4th seems harder because unlike
the situation in Mexico, our government doesn't cares if we
eat or not. So our goal of bringing the troops home from Iraq is
less attainable—in the short term. But I've reconciled
myself to the openness of it all, understanding that in that space
we create by calling for this fast, things will undoubtedly happen
that will lead to a more rapid end to this war. Other Americans
may be moved to take action, people abroad may learn that some Americans
care, soldiers may decide to stop participating, congresspeople
may be moved to vote against the war.
We certainly know the outcome when we do nothing—the war
and the dying and the suffering continue. But fasting is doing something,
and something will emerge from the nothingness. Of that I'm
Yesterday I rounded up a carload of kids (I mean kids in the friendly way) and we made our way out to Houma to volunteer at the Four Directions Community Free Store. This is a food store that is functioning out of a home that was given to the Common Ground Houma Project/Four Directions to serve the community out in Houma, the surrounding bayous and the Indian Reservation. The drive was stunning- green, lush and expansive; it felt like you could see forever.
We got out there and did some basic maintenance around the place and waited for the delivery truck that never came and had to turn away many residents as there was nothing really to give, except a whole lot of cans of tuna and chili that no one really wanted that badly. I laid my first floor in the small free store restroom- the old women who usually run the store will be ecstatic. It was hot but the volunteers were happy to be working out in the fresh air where breathing asbestos and drinking water that tastes a little! like bleach was not on the menu for the day. After being cramped in a little bathroom pounding nails into the floor all day, the others having been weeding, and pulling up the tiles in the front room, we heard the sweetest sound (literally) there is- the ice cream truck. They are exceptionally groovin' down here (like most things) and we all ran out like a bunch of 8 year olds (mind you, are ages were ranging from 19-40 something) screaming and jumping around. It is amazing what the little things will do to you here. The ice cream van is the luxury. Clean water, clean air, air conditioning in 90% humidity are not, though they are treated like it now.
May 23, 2006
I think I've been waiting for divine inspiration- or some version thereof. I have been back in New Orleans for approximately 1 month. Just 1 month. I haven't blogged, I haven't wrote a word, just brief emails and the occasional outpour or outburst which turns a 5 minute phone chat into a 50 minute conversation (sorry Mer). I am even somewhat intimidated by my keyboard. Funny.
My version of divine inspiration came from the one and only Ms. Eve Ensler and I have been stewing on it for the past 2 days. I attended an event on Sunday night at Tulane University- a debut, if you will, of the newly formed coalition of groups (V-Day + some amazing local organizations supporting women's rights and combating violence) called Katrina Warriors. Please look them up. Now. At the end of a long evening (note: nothing runs on schedule here, ever) Eve gave her wrap up of the evening and although it was hurried, it was- as always- potent. It was an evening of stories (New Orleans once known as Storyville and even more so now) of triumph and courageousness under the most dire circumstances many of us have or ever will come to witness. Charmaine Marchand, Charmaine Neville, Dr. Ruth Berggren, and Joan Ann Brown with the New Orleans Gospel Singers rocked the McAllister Auditorium and all of us in it, include Eve, to our very cores. And then Eve on stage , her timeless! brunette bob, her voice cracking with emotion, says the words that I have needed to hear since my return. "You are the community you've been waiting for." Read the sentence again and say it aloud- a couple times even, it could change everything.
Yes, this is a war-torn, devastated area. Yes, the community has been decimated. Yes, the centuries of oppression and the undeniable, incorrigible layers of corruption have never been more obvious. Yes, the levees burst, they were blown! and they are being repaired to pre-Katrina standards. Yes, a million times, a million problems, yes. But here we are. Communities are coming back together (with some outside support) and joining hands and helping, solving these problems step by step.
(Writing now, makes me wish I had been writing the whole time. Too many things have happened and happen on a daily basis that I can't register it all, but I will try from now on so you can get a brief glimpse of life here. I promise.)
On Mother's Day, Anna (the 19 year old coordinator of the Common Ground Women's Housing Project, who has been here since September) and I pulled together a gathering of locals, volunteers and kids to celebrate the roots of Mother's Day. Then we joined a Second Line Parade* where everyone was dancing and grooving for miles because that's how it is here. Your home is broken but if your spirit is so broken that you can't dance, then it's really over. The sense of community and the sense of place are more prevalent here than anywhere else I have ever been. It is strange if you don't acknowledge folk as they pass you. Or even people across the street. I have been looking for a sense of community forever, and here I am, I'm finally it. What I put out is what I get back. When I was back in LA working with the fabulous women in the CODEPINK LA office (my hearts) I was getting distant and separated from the work there because I could only think of New Orleans. I could only think of ! everything I saw and felt and smelt. Now I'm here (and even as I write I am invigorated with the spirit of what is possible!) and while I go through the “what am I doing here?” every couple days, I am inspired by the life I see everywhere. The people I work with and interact with on a daily basis are incredible. You have to see it to believe it. This place is so sensual that words only attempt at describing it- leading to many amazing authors from and works on New Orleans (try Andrei Codrescu for more contemporary work- great stuff, thanks Medea). The heat is here and the bugs are buzzing, and while I find myself trying to force the Southern time frame to move a bit quicker I find myself with the time to participate in my community and listen attentively to the folks I came to work for and with.
My first night here the boyfriend of a neighbor, a very friendly fellow, told me to be careful around here and then showed me his gun (permitted, concealed he said) and suggested I start carrying too. Most people around here pack. A woman died in the Lower 9th last week. Her husband, Tyrone, sat next to me at the community kitchen and cried. My neighbor is a soldier, 24, who was in Iraq back in 2003. The house next to me smelled like a dead animal until a few weeks ago, and now a big family is moving in. My other neighbor is a doctor who works night shifts at a local hospital (I can only imagine considering very few are open as of yet) and the man across the street is called Rambo and I'm not sure why yet. My neighbor around the corner, Potato, cooked me and 10 others breakfast on Easter morning because it made him happy.
Sometimes I forget that I'm in the south, and then little (or real big) reminders snap me back to my reality. Everything being said, I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else right now. Everyday is an experience unto itself. And as I write and know all of this, I also know the next hurricane season is coming. Soon.
* In a Jazz funeral, the First Line is the mourners; the Second Line is celebratory with Jazz and Brass Bands playing for miles.
My husband, Dave and I live in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Some of you may remember my husband, Dave, who was one of the few brave men present for the CODEPINK aerial photo. He was wearing a pink tiara and pink, feathered boa. Yes, he was fabulous and is quite the keeper.
We decided to make the trip to Washington, because we really wanted to gather with informed people who share our anguish over this senseless war. And as a mother myself, I can only imagine the pain that many of you courageous mothers have endured. We were moved by your stories and wisdom.
Well, our pilgrimage there validated our beliefs – to the core. We learned the grave facts and met with extraordinary people. This was all possible because of you ladies at CODEPINK.
The experience of our brief jaunt to DC was encouraging in an otherwise disparaging environment where only the rich and powerful have final say. Marching and gathering with all of you was cleansing and somewhat healing for both of us. In addition, I believe the trip served as kindling for me; it generated a fire and marks the beginning of my involvement in the peace movement in a more active sense. The futility of simple grumbling is no longer enough.
I spend a great deal of my time writing poetry, fiction and non-fiction. This trip has provided me inspiration and more fuel for my writing fire!
For years, I have poked around with an angry stick wishing for justice and change after having cast my vote for the good guy and losing - and therefore losing whatever faith I had in the system. Yes, the system is broken but my voice is not.
Among the many wonderful people we met, I must mention the opportunity afforded of meeting Ann Wright and Diane Wilson – unsung heroes in my book. Needless to say, I felt humble in their presence. Here I was, a novice to the activist scene. But these women, veterans to the political battlefield, were so gracious to me and so open to discussion. Please pass this message on to these ladies if possible. And I can't forget to metion, I am reading Diane's book right now!
I am grateful to have met Cindy Sheehan as well. She was so very kind and attentive without even knowing my name but that didn't matter; we connected as people who believe that change is possible with collective voices.
The heartbreaking letter read by the Iraqi woman in one of the sessions was stunning. This session was so incredibly eye opening. I left Washington thinking that all Americans should certainly hear the voices of the Iraqi people rather the rhetoric from our administration of which we are presently bombarded. I am hoping that more truth outpouring from Iraq will will soon become a reality.
This journey was purposeful and will serve as a conduit to my activism in my own hometown. Rather than sit on my behind with resentful resignation, I have resolved to join the movement. I will also continue to pass information on to friends and family.
Please keep me on your mailing lists. I look forward to more opportunities to gather with your kindred spirits. I am attaching some photos if you wish to have.
Cheers and Best Wishes, Julia Rademacher (and Dave, the pink boa guy) May 19, 2006
I am a retired Air Force officer who saw lies being promulgated by the Pentagon and the administration, lies promoting and justifying a war that apparently couldn't be justified if the administration and the Pentagon had simply told the truth.
I have written and spoken from my perspective as a military officer, and as a citizen of this country.I was offended as an officer and as a citizen that this is how our nation marches to war, using lies and false patriotism.I was offended that the neoconservatives who demanded this war did so in a way that not only disregarded the value of truth, but the value of human life.Ours and that of Iraqis.
In over three years of destruction, we have witnessed the exposure of the lies the President told to justify his invasion of Iraq, and nearly 2500 dead Americans, almost 30,000 injured and maimed sons and daughters, and half a trillion dollars wasted. Today I also want to speak as a mother. I am the mother of four children -- a fifteen year old son, an seventeen year old daughter, a twenty year old son and a twenty two year old daughter.
They say nothing more awe inspiring and powerful than a mother defending her young.The truth should have prevented this invasion, and if not that. Certainly ended the occupation long ago.But it did not.No cost seems to high for this agenda in Iraq, if you ask the administration -- the Bushes, the Cheneys, the Rumsfelds and Wolfowitzes.All parents or grandparents, none with a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter at risk.And yet neither the cold truth nor our bankrupt economy has been enough to end the occupation, and bring the troops home so we can have a real national defense, so we can begin taking care of them, and so that we can help them heal form this abuse of their trust, their faith in constitutional and international law and justice.
The truth and our bankrupt economy are powerful things that should have already ended our adventure in Iraq.The truth and our bankrupt economy should be enough to finally let Iraqis have their sovereignty back.But they have not been enough.
When this unjust war and occupation of Iraq ends, it may be only because mothers like all of you -- like all of us -- have entered the battle and tipped the scales -- not just for truth, justice, for peace, for the honor of our beloved country, but for our children. It is love that animates, love that empowers when even hope may be gone.It is love that heals -- a wounded son, an heartbroken daughter, even a nation whose faith in itself as standing for something has been shattered.And love may be what has been missing in the ending of this war -- love for our children, for our country, love for the enemy too.
It isn't easy to prescribe love.And that's where mothers come in -- because while it isn't always easy to love, a mother's love is love on steroids.It is love that never dies, does not give up, forgives, returns again and again, never quits, and never fails.
Until today, I haven't spoken as a mother in my opposition to this war, but I have come to realize that there is a reason truth and justice and law have not yet caused our government to change course, and bring the troops home from this unnecessary, unjust and evil war.
The untapped power of the love of a 100 million American mothers, and fathers too, for their precious children, and that precious next generation -- in America as well as in Iraq -- needs to flow.It needs to flood the White House, drench the Capitol building, wash away the arrogance of the Pentagon.The power of a mother's love is needed to embrace and hold each and every returning soldier, to weep openly over our dead, and to chastise this government for what it has done, and perhaps to forgive ourselves as citizens in a so-called democracy for what we have allowed our government to do in our name.
So today, as mothers, we seek peace.We seek it for justice, in defense of the truth, in defense of the rule of law.We seek peace as a remedy for an empire in deep debt, and facing a difficult economic future.But seeking peace for these reasons alone have, in this case, not been enough. We need to tap into what really creates peace, and that is love.And the most fundamental relationship where we all learn love -- even George W. Bush -- is as a child in our mother's arms.This cannot be underestimated.
With this -- on this very special Mother's Day -- we not only find peace, we become peacemakers.And blessed are peacemakers -- Jesus said they are the children of God.And if Jesus was right -- there is no limit to what we can achieve.
I awakened last Sunday morning with an enormous pain in my heart. Every morning I wake up, as soon as I come to consciousness and figure out where I am, my first thought is of Casey and April 04, 2004, the day he was killed in BushCo's war for corporate profit. Some days, like Mother's Day, are worse than others.
That Sunday morning, I was in Washington, DC—a city that I love as an exciting, energetic and supportive one—on the other hand, the corruption seeps into my soul and I can't spend too many consecutive days there. I am also comforted by the constant police presence as I am followed like a hawk by a paranoid force that is afraid I am up to something--which is usually true, but that's beside the point, everything I do is legal--and paranoid that I may expose another t-shirt with the truth written on it.
After breakfast with my sister, a Camp Casey friend from Texas, Randi Rhodes, Susan Hathaway from NYC, and Annie Nelson (Willie's wife), we headed down to Lafayette Park where Code Pink was sponsoring a "Mothers Say No to War" vigil where hundreds of male and female matriots gathered together to loudly, stridently, courageously, reverently, and oftentimes joyfully proclaim to the world and the illicit administration that we have had enough of the world's children being killed for no reason other than to garner obscene profits for the war machine.
We had a wonderful day opening with a prayer/memorial service for all of the people, including innocent Iraqis, that have been lost to Bush's gigantic ego and bottomless greed. At one point, I laid my head in my friend Hillary's lap and sobbed for the chasm of emptiness that is present in my life on a daily basis. Not only do I miss Casey, but I miss my other children. I miss the life we led before Casey was killed: A life that was dominated by the children and their activities. Now I am separated by a dimension from Casey and by distance from my others. I do this so they and the worlds' children won't have to go to war and die for a racket that is as old as time. It is a hard life that I have chosen but sometimes I feel that it has chosen me.
One of my new friends whom I made this weekend is Dr. Patch Adams who is a remarkably cheerful and loving person who has devoted his life to the pursuit of love and laughter. Until I met him, I was wondering who in the heck the gigantic man was in a pink wig and pink flowered dress! When I introduced myself, he put me in a bear hug that fed my heart and soul. We had long conversations about using humor and love to change the world and talked about a "Cindy and Patch Peace Tour."
After Casey's movie mom, Susan Sarandon arrived; we were treated to a surprise guest: Dick Gregory. Dick had been on his way to Cleveland to an engagement when he saw the Code Pink protest on the news and he changed direction and he came to DC to join us. He decided to go on a fast on the way to the event. He asked me what my heart's dream was. I replied: "Troops home, now," without a second thought or a second's hesitation. He said: "So be it, I am fasting until the troops come home!"
After a particularly emotional time, Randi came up to me, crying, and asked: "How do you do this, Cindy?"
Great question. I looked all around me. At my dear friends, Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans and Gael Murphy who founded Code Pink Alert: Women for Peace and who have been my constant cheerleaders and co-conspirators for peace longer than most people. I saw Hillary and Desiree, two Code Pinkers from Dallas who spent the night with me that first harrowing night in the ditch. I glimpsed Diane Wilson who just got out of a Texas jail after spending six months there for chaining herself to a Dow Chemicals tank. My nearly constant companion on my journeys around the country, Col. Ann Wright, was not too far from me. She resigned her job at the State Department after George Bush invaded Iraq and she runs Camp Casey each time with a competent and loving hand. Tiffany, one of my Camp Casey assistants was running around the park organizing things and wearing a picture of her "brother" Casey around her neck. I saw hundreds of Americans who came from all over our country to show George Bush that we repudiate him and his crimes against humanity.
I looked at Randi with tears streaming down my face. In answer to her question, I replied: "Casey brought all of us together. I am not doing this alone. Casey gave all of you to me to help me through this."
Casey would not allow me do this alone. He has given us the gift of lasting friendships that are not only enriching us but changing the world. He has brought the peace movement together by his unnecessary sacrifice.
George Bush could never meet with me and tell me what noble cause he killed Casey and so many others for: First of all, because war for empire and profit is not noble, secondly because the man is a coward.
Karen Bradley has been hanging out with CodePINK since the nascent beginnings. She lives in Washington DC on Capitol Hill, is a university professor of dance, and is spending this Mother's Day working for peace, along with her son Larry, age 17. She blogs at the Democracy Cell Project, Daily Kos, and AfterDowningStreet.
Rev. Yearwood talks about the links between Katrina and Iraq. His message: we have to conquer racism first.
Dahlia Wafsi shares what it is like in Basra when rockets are flying by you--from the British headquarters
Andy Shallal fed everyone--amazing job!
Everyone in front of the White House just an hour ago.
Iraq War Veterans Speak Out
Can you find Dharma's Mom in this photo?
Medea Benjamin leads us in a rousing "I Ain't Gonna Study War No More"
An almost full moon rises over the heart-filled circle in front of the White House.
We will be going back soon. It's remarkable. Hope these photos help you touch this moment.
Posted below are yesterday's (May 12, 2006) photos were at Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) gathering preparing materials and arranging late minutes details. The low light photos are from the CODEPINK event at Busboys and Poets.
Below is a an interview with Katie from Portland. Interview conducted by Nancy Hill, CODEPINK Tucson. It is from a couple hours ago (early afternoon here) as we prepared banners, set-up, unloaded, folded handouts.... and such (May 13, 2006).
Karen Bradley has been hanging out with CodePINK since the nascent beginnings. She lives in Washington DC on Capitol Hill, is a university professor of dance, and is spending this Mother's Day working for peace, along with her son Larry, age 17. She blogs at the Democracy Cell Project, Daily Kos, and AfterDowningStreet.
The sky is suddenly blue and we lie on the green grass, threads of pink spell out "Mom says NO to War". We are the threads, hundreds of us, dressed in pink, with pink banners.
The aerial photo will be released; taken from the top of the Washington Monument. We met people from Phoenix AZ, Jamica Plain MA, Camden ME, Baltimore and North Carolina. We were part of the "Y" in "says".
Moms shared stories of sons in Iraq; sons in college, sons lost, children and the future. Later, we will do the Karl Rove Indictment Happy Dance, but for now, the sheer joy of holding hands and dancing in the unexpected sun is enough.
Right now, teach-ins are happening and we will head over there to see them and learn from each other, but for now, all of you are here with us. I will post as I can, or call into sparrow, DiAnne and the rest of the DCPers.
(It is nice to think about consternation inside those white walls, so cut off from our sense of mission and intent).
Well... dear blog readers... it has been a while since I happily hopped on a train in Martinez, CA! I'm now in NYC, and despite my fatigue, I LOVE it here! The New Yorkers I've seen and interacted with over the past day and a half are lively, talkative, helpful with transit info, and of course mulitilingual and multicultural. I now understand why former (exiled) New Yorkers talk nostalgically about their city, and particularly its energy: somehow I feel lifted out of my own fatigue and small concerns walking down West 96th looking for coffee and breakfast.
Capitalism & Nationalism: NYSE.
I am Amtrak-weary. When I told people that John and I were taking the train cross-country, their eyes would light up and they would inevitably ask: How long does that take? Answer: a long, long time. Amtrak has no dedicated rail lines, but has to send its aging trains down the rails in between heavily loaded freight trains, and the roughness of the tracks and switches jitters right up into one's bottom and lower back. Not to discourage anyone from using our most eco-sensitive and safest method of travel, of course... Did I mention the food is pretty bad? And the train cars get really grimy after two days? Or that the sleeper compartments are claustrophobia-inducing?
One of the many Goddess figures I've encountered on my journey.
But enough complaints. Loved seeing the country, its beauty, vastness and variety, especially the light on the northern plains, a revelation of harsh beauty. I'll catch up with my journey-blogging when I get to DC. The trip so far has been a series of private conversations: with my husband John, with my mother Georgia Walkup about Mother's Day in DC and about her grandson, my nephew, Joel going into the Marines Officer Corps, with my other nephew Russell about how he managed not to be sent to Iraq when he was called up to Camp Pendleton in 2003, and with train passengers.
No one said, "Oh, can I come too?" when I told them about Mother's Day vigil and month in DC, but I got plenty of encouragement and approval from my sister trail travelers.
The marks of this war were faint, but still discernible, as I crossed from one state to another. In famous Powell's bookstore in Portland, I counted 117 separate titles on the 15-year-long war against Iraq in just the Military History section. That's not counting Cindy Sheehan's book, or "10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military" or...
Well, time's up on my rented computer. Talk to you later,
End the war in 06, Janet
"Democracy isn't something you have. It's something you DO." -- author unknown
"Take your face out of your hands And clear your eyes You have a right to your dreams And don't be denied" -- Ben Harper, "Better Way" from "Both Sides of the Gun" CD
Morning coffee happens in Whitefish, MT. The train station is close to a new, interesting-looking school. There's the usual morning hubbub of children arriving, parents and teachers talking, and vehicles coming and going. The town has a crisp, prosperous look.
We've missed most of the Rocky Mountains. The many switchbacks as the train climbed through the passes registered in our bodies as John and I woke several times, had nightmares, and generally thrashed around in the small dark compartment. The narrow mattresses are about an inch thick, and our books, backpacks and bags are awkwardly stowed in nooks and crannies. Our large suitcases are stored on the rack downstairs. We're traveling heavy, especially me, weighed down with lots of pink clothing, four pairs of shoes, my pillow, and the books on Iraq I bought at Powell's bookstore in Portland.
I wash up and shampoo in the tiny shower in the hall, then join John in the observation car to watch our winding through Glacier National Park. It's an immense landscape of sharp peaks and sudden deep valleys, but fewer glaciers now in the age of global warming. A magnificent wooden lodge beacons as we step outside for a fresh air and stretch break, otherwise known as a “smoke break.” The smokers huddle; John and I stretch our legs, desperate for exercise. I think about putting Code Pink flyers in the women's bathroom and decide against it, as it looks scarcely used.
Traveling by train is like time travel into the past. The stations have long wooden benches, passengers are met by friends and family right at the tracks, a genial, relaxed atmosphere surrounds us from state to state, no one's body or bags are scanned, and the signal for boarding is the unamplified human voice calling “All Aboard!” It comes faintly down the track from the conductor, standing near the engine, and is repeated by the car attendants. We step back on the train and it pulls slowly out toward the open plains of eastern Montana.
The spaciousness and brilliant light of the northern plains are revelations. I have dreaded this part of the trip through what I thought of as “the Flat Part”, but it turns out to be fascinating.
The newspapers in this part of the country feature the story of a group of German-Americans who were labeled and harassed as “enemy agents” during World War I; their descendants, after decades of advocacy, have finally earned posthumous acknowledgement that these hard-working immigrant farmers were loyal naturalized American citizens. Every war drags a long chain of aftermath and consequences, I think, amazed that a war that finished in 1918 is still making the front page in 2006!
What unimagined consequences from the war in Iraq will the people of both countries have to deal with a century from now? Far more even than the “War to End All Wars,” I fear. Depleted uranium alone will make the aftermath long and tragic.
In one small town, a billboard with a big waving flag proclaims that “Jeremy” has returned from Iraq. No mention of PTSD, or whether Jeremy still believes he brought freedom to the Arab heartland. At least he made it back. Even one young man's death would be a blow to this Montana community. I hate the triumphal nationalism of the image, however.
This part of the country is sparsely inhabited. John draws my attention to an entire ghost village, uniformly gray with age and neglect. The church's tall spire points to a vast blue sky. What economic cataclysm emptied this town? Who had hopes here and had to leave them behind for jobs in a larger town, or for a hobo's life, riding the rails? It looks unspeakably forlorn, and I express my wish that the town could be torn down and its lumber used in new buildings, the land restored to open bird habitat.
Not only buildings are abandoned here. Around farms and in small towns, I see collections of rusted out old cars. No economic incentive to recover the metal and other resources exists, I suppose. Part of the history of our dependence on the combustion engine and its oily fuels is written in these wrecks no one bothered to fix up or collect. Our continuing dependence is displayed in the ribbons of black highway that parallel the tracks and the huge trucks hauling food and other products over vast distances.
At the wine tasting that afternoon, John and I are seated with two women I'll call Alaska and Pennsylvania, as we never got around to introducing ourselves. Pennsylvania is a pleasant, blue-eyed, gray-haired retired teacher; Alaska is a tribal leader from a native group between Fairbanks and Anchorage. The two women have been talking earlier and have a rapport. As we sip our wines, Alaska talks about the wines she makes at home, from blueberries, blackberries and elderberries. Pennsylvania tells me the mountains we can still see, far to the southwest, are called “The Bearclaws.” We talk geography for a while, then earthquake experiences in Alaska and California. Pennsylvania listens with restrained horror, especially at Alaska's experience of driving during a 7.9 earthquake, finally asking us, “Is there any warning?” We 3 of the Pacific Rim chuckle a little at this. “In a way, we have decades of warning,” I answer.
I tell these women about my journey to DC for Code Pink's Mother's Day vigil and month of actions. I am surprised by how emotional I feel, telling them about Julia Ward Howe's original vision and the Mother's Day proclamation. I talk a bit about the connection between 19th century feminism and women's response to war. They are warmly appreciative and clearly opposed to the war. Sam would be working to get them to DC. For me, it's enough to hear their encouragement.
Alaska is on her own mission to DC, her trip of ferries from to Seattle, then train rides across the continent dwarfing even my long trek. Small planes are fine for her, but she can't bear large commercial flights (“I know, flying coffin travel” I commiserate) and she is willing to make a trip of over a week for two days of intense lobbying and other work in DC. One of her objectives is to try to arrange for the repatriation of human remains of ancestors of her tribe from the Smithsonian! We cheer her on, and wish her all the best for all her work. I think with loathing of the drawers and boxes of human bones in the Smithsonian. This eloquent woman, quick with a funny story or a vivid description of the subarctic forest of her native land, is part of the recovery from that terrible history of conquest and attempted genocide, and an agent of transition into a period of greater autonomy and power for native peoples in North America.
On this trip, I see traces of native presence, from the long wooden fishing platforms jutting out over the Columbia River, restored after long struggles with Bonneville Power Company and who knows what else, to the place names on signs, to the tall man in “Western” (modern versions of American Indian) clothing, including a black “cowboy” hat and turquoise jewelry who boards the train in North Dakota. The longest and most devastating war in US history – the war against the original inhabitants of the continent – has, nonetheless, not gained that supreme and final victory I was taught about in grade school. The “Vanishing Indian” never really vanished, and is coming back strong, at least in places.
Our dinner companions are a mother, Genevieve, and her 4-year-old son Elijah. They are traveling from Missoula, MT to Minneapolis. Elijah is grumpy after his nap and shy with strangers, and Genevieve coaxes him, into sitting still, eating a hot dog, and gradually interacting with John and me. As I watch her motherly arts, the combination of direction (“Say ‘thank you', OK?) and generosity, the warmth with which she encircles him, the words of the Mother's Day Proclamation come to my mind, especially the part about “to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.” Genevieve IS teaching Elijah, her every word and caress a way of guiding him, both consciously and unconsciously. Her love, so matter-of-fact and "ordinary", creates a sense of security for him. By the end of the meal he is telling us jokes and smiling a lot, a little dimple appearing in his soft round face. His brown eyes are gleaming as we laugh at the punchlines of his jokes about numbers and letters of the alphabet.
“This is what I'm going to DC for,” I tell myself as I watch and listen to them. “This beauty. That this beauty be honored and not destroyed.” The way Elijah nestles against Genevieve's shoulder and breast is the foundation of all other loves of his life.
I tell her about Mother's Day vigil and month, about reclaiming the original intention, and Genevieve is interested and supportive. I do not ask, of course, if she ever worries that her son will be caught up in this war, one that Bush has recently predicted will NOT end with his presidency. But I think about it. And although I stop the images almost as soon as they arise in my mind, I think also of the other dear little brown-eyed boys -- of Iraq -- who I know only from photos of atrocities, not smiling, not telling jokes anymore.
John and I manage another 6 hours or so of sleep and rise to sit through a long weary slog through Wisconsin. Milwaukee looks dreary and bleak. The train tracks are heavily littered. We can't wait to pull into Chicago.
End the war in 06, Janet
"Democracy isn't something you have. It's something you DO." -- author unknown
"Take your face out of your hands And clear your eyes You have a right to your dreams And don't be denied" -- Ben Harper, "Better Way" from "Both Sides of the Gun" CD
My nephew Russell Walkup picks me up in his six-seat, interior rollbar, sporty van. "Cool!" I exclaim, (so much for eco-savvy choices!) and clamber in. Russell ties me into my seat with various padded straps and we roll through Portland in search of dinner. We choose Jake's Seafood, near famous Powell's Books, and settle in for a fancy meal in the old-fashioned, dark wood and white tablecloths, restaurant.
Over seafood pasta and filet mignon and red wine, Russell tells me the story of how he managed not to be sent to Iraq when he was called up in early 2003 with his Marines Reserves unit. First he explains some details of his work life in Camp Pendleton, as a corporal in charge of younger privates. "I tried not to pull rank," he says, "I figured if some guy was a private first class and he had good ideas [about the administrative work they were doing], he should have a chance to do what he wanted. The only time I pulled rank was when buddies of mine thought they could get out of something," such as night guard duty. As he speaks, I have another image of soldiers, not as killers or victims, but as workers, figuring out small ways to maneuver within, to lessen the effects of, a rigid hierarchy.
As the time of invasion drew near, Russell's staff sergeant posted the list of his platoon and told his men to indicate whether they "wanted" to go or not. As if invading Iraq were a field trip! Russell and two other marines, independently of each other, indicated "NO." The staff sergeant confronted him afterward: "This is a mistake, right?" "No, staff sergeant." Later Russell's commanding officer argued that he should go for the good of his platoon, to make sure everyone came home alive. Since Russell worked in adminstration, the usual "blood brothers" myths were less than compelling and he again declined. Finally the staff sergeant told him, "Just because you marked no doesn't mean I can't send you." Russell refused to be intimidated, and the rest of his platoon left without him.
Russell is concerned that I not come away with an image of him as a lonely heroic resister. About his motivations: "I knew my mom didn't want me to go [to Iraq] and that was pretty important to me." He was less than tightly bonded with his fellow Marines Reservists: "Some of them were pretty immature... I didn't really want to be with those people." I ask about the verbal abuse and extreme swearing in the Marines and he shrugs it off with, "Well, you have to consider the source." Like my brother Doug [his father], Russell has a cheerful, even temperment that I admire, never more so than as I listen to him describing encounters that might have overwhelmed a less secure person. He also analyzes the appeal of the Marines for young men who come from dysfunctional families, and recognizes that the strong security and identity the Corps offers them was less meaningful to him, coming from a strongly bonded and affectionate family.
Our conversation continues to his plans to leave his insurance job in Oregon City, and move to Costa Rica to start a business taking tourists to kayak, surf and hike (hence the specially outfitted van.) Fluent in Spanish, with a clear business plan including a reevaluation of objectives every fiscal quarter and a bus admin degree, Russell seems to me as well-prepared as any young person taking on such an ambitious goal might be. His older brother Joshua is going to join him for two months, as they drive from Oregon to Costa Rica, a trip that seems almost mythical (and very difficult) to me. I tell him I'm proud of him and invite him to visit John and me on his way south.
Then I ask him: "Is part of your going to Costa Rica that you want to leave the US?" He admits that it is (not that there aren't plenty of positive reasons to want to be in Costa Rica.) He mentions two issues: punitive drug laws and the lack of real rehabilitation for most people, and frivolous lawsuits. His politics are more libertarian, less clearly antiwar, than mine. He's dubious about the US leaving Iraq abruptly and not willing to join me in calling for immediate withdrawal, yet he doesn't buy the pretexts for the continuing occupation, either. He doesn't seem bitter about the US, yet he is ready to leave the country for an unknown amount of time. He seems shrewd and self-protective to me, but at the same time friendly and eager for new experiences.
Russell's warmth and caring really emerge when I talk a bit about CODEPINK and the Mother's Day vigil and following month of actions in DC. His politics are different, yet he encourages me warmly. He is following his own path, and he respects that I am following mine.
I don't see Russell often, and am so happy we have had a chance to talk privately and connect before he leaves for Costa Rica. Only one thing troubles me about our conversation: that we have scarcely spoken of Iraq. As we get ready to go, he says something again about not being a hero for refusing to join in the invasion. I remember how quiet, serious and uncharacteristically subdued he was when he visited John and me in April 2003, and I reply: "Don't selll yourself short. You knew the invasion was wrong." He nods, and I let it go at that.
End the war in 06, Janet
"Democracy isn't something you have. It's something you DO." -- author unknown
"Take your face out of your hands And clear your eyes You have a right to your dreams And don't be denied" -- Ben Harper, "Better Way" from "Both Sides of the Gun" CD
My mother turns 75 tomorrow, and I pick out a birthday gift for her: a coverup she can wear over her swimsuit, and a box of chocolates wrapped in images of various First Ladies that I bought at the Oregon Museum store. At lunch with her and my father, I feel happy that she is still vigorous and active with aqua aerobics and other interests, and that I have much in common with her. We both love to swim and be in the water, for one thing. Mother is less than celebratory about her milestone birthday. "This is the oldest I am going to be," she declares. "I'll just continue to be 75 -- that's old enough."
The three of us make desolutory conversation over a buffet lunch, then I tell Dad that I want "some girl talk" with Mother. "I figured something like that," he calmly answers, going off to read in the hotel lobby while Mother and I go to my hotel room for what I really want to talk to her about: my nephew Joel going into the Marines Officer Corps after his college graduation. In this neutral setting, she and I are having the sort of anguished, inconclusive conversation I imagine women are having in private all over the country. Why is he doing this? What does the military represent to him, and how can we counter that? He's so enthusiastic about everything, but why is he enthusiastic about THIS? What can we do? Who will he listen to? How can we change his mind?
I learn two pieces of good news: Joel will not graduate until December 2006, so there is more time than I had thought. (Let's end this war in June! I think.) And my mother has written him a long letter, urging him to consider all his options, not to think that he HAS to join the Marines, and he wrote back an appreciative response. My mother worries, though, that while his brother Russell has talked to him about the negatives of being in the military, a positive alternative has not been presented to him. After a while, my mother expresses that she has done all she can as his grandmother. That's probably true. I haven't seen him for 10 months, haven't mailed him a copy of "10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military," haven't called him on this trip. I'm scared that I may be so vehemently against the war and the military that he won't want to have contact with me. I'm hesitant, uncertain of my role in his life.
I also feel, passionately and with some guilt, so glad that my son, 22 years old and currently unemployed and out of college, has never mentioned joining the military. If he did, what would I do? I have an image of myself going to his recruiter's office and stripping myself naked and screaming, but would I really do it? And would that accomplish anything other than my involuntary confinement in some psych ward? A terror lingers in the back of my mind that he might choose the military option and I avoid the subject with him, always striving to be positive, hopeful and relaxed -- not hard when we're enjoying baseball or some other common interest. But my tension about his future stays with me, shows up in occasional insomnia and snappishness.
And Joel... I haven't talked with him about this blog, so I won't put in his personal details except to say that literally from his babyhood he has been the "party hearty guy," the boy and now young man with the smile and the great, open-hearted attitude. As I say to my mother, probably just adding unnecessarily to her anxiety, the nausea and the disbelief I feel when I think of him THERE... I can't bear to say it. Iraq. In the empire's latest farflung outpost.
Our faces mirror each other's anguish, but we do not cry. My father comes to the door, we make small talk, I walk them down to their car. My parents are going off to Astoria, on the gorgeous Oregon coast, for a few days of birthday celebration.
We wave good-bye, don't hug. It only occurs to me later that this is strange. We are a little remote from each other, a little guarded.
This war and its silences -- what we don't say to each other, what we can't bear to say to the people closest to us -- haunts, taints, strains every human relation by it. Even here, so far from war's foul destruction.
John and I wake to a sunny morning riding past Klamath Lake, and spend the next two hours birdwatching -- egrets, pelicans, red-winged blackbirds -- and enjoying the sweeping vistas of lake, mountains, mesas, and pine forests.
I feel strangely removed from the immigrants' rights marches and rallies of this International Workers' Day. The train staff are white and African-American, probably all native-born. Without TV, radio, computer or even a newspaper, I have no connection except my imagination with the momentous gatherings beginning to happen all over the country. As the day goes on, I picture the Albertson's on Monument Blvd. in Concord and wonder how it's going, how big the turnout will be. I think mostly of Ivette and Mike, my buddies of Contra Costa CODEPINK. I know THEY will be marching, and Mike will have at least one of his amazingly sturdy political signs. Mike doesn't just make signs; he engineers them.
We are seated at lunch with a pleasant retired couple from Sacramento. (Many of the sleeping compartment passengers are happy older married couples; I suppose unhappy couples would never put themselves to the test of being in such close quarters for days at a time.) We spend a leisurely lunch talking about our gardens, the strange cold spring we've had, the killer traffic outside Sacramento, as the green glories of the Oregon Cascades pass by in the windows. At times we stop briefly to look at a waterfall, or a particularly beautiful grove of firs.
The conversation turns to solar energy; why hasn't it really taken hold, especially in the Sacramento area, so well-suited for it? Why don't we have non-gasoline engines? Why don't we start weaning ourselves off petroleum products? The questions are pertinent, the concerns are real, yet I am struck by how we, four middle-aged, middle-class people of some competence and initiative in our professional lives, have been passive consumers, waiting for an eco-savvy future with sensible energy choices for home and transportation that never seem to arrive. We are aware of the destructive nature of our oil-based economy and culture, and make some small, less-destructive choices, and yet... Hey, we're riding the train! We're gardening without pesticides! We're living in small (for the US middle-class) homes! We're not so bad! Why hasn't all that good stuff we were talking and reading about in the 70s happened already?!
But I don't, as John would call it, "launch." That is, scold or rant. Anyway, who am I to judge others in this respect? I'm a car-driving, long-shower-taking California consumer myself. Mostly I listen, and watch the fertile farms and nurseries of the Willamette Valley come into view. And then Mt. Hood, the towering white triangle that presides over northern Oregon, a powerful spirit, one of the range of individual volcanic peaks that starts with Mt. Shasta in California and goes to Mt. Baker in Washington.
At the mid-afternoon wine tasting, the craggy-faced guy pouring our California and Oregon wines gives us first-class passengers a history question: What US president claimed to have killed his grandmother? I guess Ulysses Grant, thinking that he was such a depressive alchoholic he might have said something morbid like that. John guesses Andrew Jackson, surely one of the most violent of our presidents. Wrong! Showing his gap-toothed smile, our sommelier tells us the following anecdote:
FDR grew bored in a long reception line one day, and said the man next to him, "I bet I could say anything to these people [in line to shake his hand] and they would just nod and smile." As the next 20 folks shook his hand and asked, "How are you, Mr. President?" FDR replied, "Very well! I just killed my grandmother this morning." As he had predicted, all simply nodded, smiled and moved on, except for the last, an ardent Democrat who replied, "I'm sure she deserved it, Mr. President!"
That evening in Portland, I watch CNN, C-Span, and Fox News for May Day coverage while John visits his parents. The overall tone of the TV coverage of the vast, historic marches and rallies from NYC to LA seems to be: "Damn the illegals! Damn them all to hell for their lawbreaking!" The hypocrisy and just plain ignorance would be amusing if it were not so insulting, not only to undocumented immigrants but to anyone allied with or sympathetic to them. CNN runs a loop of scenes of young men running across the Mexican-Arizona border or climbing fences, over and over, as Anderson Cooper talks up the "documentary" he has just made on illegal immigration. He then interviews a major TV newscaster for the Spanish-language media, who makes a calm, reasoned defense of undocumented immigrants, while Anderson seems at a loss for how to respond. On the show "Nancy Grace," the agressive former attorney shouts at her various guests, "If this [the Sensenbrenner bill] passes, there are going to be 11 MILLION felons! Where are they going to put them? We don't have enough room for the felons we have now..." Her only outrage seems to be that politicians don't understand the shortage of beds for already existing felons. C-Span is showing presentations by naturalized citizens, mostly Latino/as, who speak of their own devotion to the USA, their struggles to follow immigration law, and their moral superiority to the "illegals" who, for their own whimsical amusement it would seem, flout the laws "of this great country." We are the GOOD immigrants, they all say, in one way or another, and these later-arriving law-breakers are the BAD.
NAFTA is never mentioned, nor the devastating effects it has had on the Mexican economy, especially the agricultural sectors. Not a peep about the hiring of "illegals" by the agents of US capitalism. Nor any word of the thousands of Mexican nationals pulled into the US military to fight and die in Iraq, with the promise of earning a green card (but only after coming back in a coffin, there's the catch!).
But Fox coverage is the worst. A blaring headline screams: "Boycott -- economic terrorism?" Yes, anything bad for the Masters of the Media Universe is "terrorism." Later in the program the headline has been changed to something like, "Boycott: overstated?" Demonize or minimize.
In scenes from the various marches, particularly in LA, I notice with pleasure the element of joy, of young people dancing together holding a US flag, for example, or simply enjoying each other's company. Lots of music and friendship, as well as the more overtly political messages and demands for respect, integration and security.
The sun is blazing away and the temperature will reach 81 in Concord today. After what I was calling "the Endless February," a strangely cold, wet and gray March and early April (sign of global climate change?) spring has finally come to the Bay Area. As John and I set up the hammock and glider swing seat after their months of hibernation in the garage, he jokes, "Tell me again WHY we're leaving now?" Standing in our garden with its profusion of California poppies, fruit trees leafing out, mock orange trees in full blossom and yellow-bellied finches darting to the feeder, I wonder why myself. Our house is a sort of summer cottage, with deep porches suitable for lingering on in warm weather, though we live in it year-round. I need to finish packing, but I don't want to pack. I don't want to leave.
"Leave all that may be left of home," counseled Julia Ward Howe, and her words seem as counter-intuitive, as cruelly dismissive, to me in the early 21st century as perhaps they did to women in 1870, when she wrote her proclamation. Home is often all women have felt that they could control and express themselves through. Home is safety, comfort, order, predictability – or at least that is the ideal. Home is both my work site and my place of rest and leisure.
And yet, home to me is more than this address on Grove Way, an "old-suburb" house built in 1950 in a subdivision carved out of walnut groves. Home is more than the grapefruit tree whose pale yellow fruits are piled all over our kitchen counter before we juice them. Home is more than the birdbath, the back lawn being yanked out to be replaced by drought-tolerant creeping thyme, the messy garage, the hydrangea bush that will flower while I'm gone. Home is…
Home is the city of Concord, the largest city in Contra Costa County, where I've taught ESL, off and on, for 11 years and resided in for two. Home is Todos Santos Plaza, where I've gone for free concerts and the weekly farmers' market, and recently attended an immigrants' rights rally. Home is Mt. Diablo, the tallest mountain at almost 4000 feet, in the Bay Area, where John, my son Dan and I went for a ramble yesterday past lodgepole pines and long, flower-studded grasses. Home is my Contra Costa Code Pink buddies gathering at my house for a meeting, and other friends calling for directions to the send-off party. My gym is my home away from home, where I have sweated off rages against new casualty figures, Rumsfeld's arrogance in briefings, torture revelations. Temple Isaiah, the Reform synagogue in Lafayette that John and I belong to, felt like a refuge as I talked to Rabbi Judy Shanks about my need to go to DC for Mother's Day Month… and my ambivalence about leaving. At the end of our conversation, she took my hands and added to the traditional Jewish blessing for travel with her own affirmation of my journey.
I am so fortunate, so privileged, so protected to have a home that I do NOT want to leave, that I can count on returning to, unharmed. No woman in Iraq can rest in that assurance, no matter if her home has been in the family for generations, her clan has lived in the same place for centuries, and she is a far more dedicated and skillful homemaker than I. The most haunting single image of this war for me has been that of an American boot lifted to kick open the door of an Iraqi home. How could they live there after having their homes violated? I have often wondered. After foreign soldiers have trampled on and desecrated one's home, with their violence but even with their silent, curious or contemptuous gaze, how could one bear to remain, to clean up afterward, to try to relax, to comfort children and old people, to pray, and to sleep?
Many Iraqis are homeless now, living in internal exile, in tents, in friends' houses, in Jordan or even farther away. How do they manage? Who helps them? When if ever will they return? These are the questions that not even sympathetic and unembedded reporters, with rare exceptions, present to the public for consideration. How many units of housing has this war and occupation destroyed? How will they be rebuilt, and who will profit from the rebuilding, if any?
American homes are blasted in less visible ways by this war. They are blasted by absence, by aching unappeasable grief symbolized by a flag folded into a triangle in place of a son or daughter, by lack of money, by suicides from untreated PTSD, by wild screaming and rages, night after hellish night.
The mindset that produces war does not think in terms of "home." It thinks in terms of targets, territories, resources, assets, bases and headquarters. Expeditionary armies by definition do not live at home, nor do they make new homes. They destroy and appropriate homes for the functions of war.
To protest these crimes in DC, in May 2006, I will leave. "All that may be left of home." I hear bitter sarcasm in the phrase. In my understanding of Julia Ward Howe's words, I hear: So, you think you are safe and comfy, in your little space with its china cups, its freshly laundered linens? In this world of warfare, where your husband comes back to you reeking of carnage and your sons are morally emptied out, is it a home, or a pretty cage? Are you a woman unwilling to examine the facts of a bloodied and dangerous world? Do you want to tidy up after carnage, or do you want to come together with other women, in a space NOT your homes, and seek to end war?
And so I pack, receive the blessings and messages of friends at my send-off party, grab my stuff, and close the door. Leaving what I have, and love, for the moral ambition expressed by a woman of another era, and brought to expression again by Cindy Sheehan and many other women of CODEPINK in my own day.
My journey is Concord to Washington, DC, leaving the known for the unknown, security for hope, home and family for political theater on the steps and halls of Congress, the Mother's Day of cards and flowers for a Mother's Day MONTH of action to get the troops out of Iraq, and YES, to bring them home.
End the war in 06, Janet
"Democracy isn't something you have. It's something you DO." -- author unknown
"Take your face out of your hands And clear your eyes You have a right to your dreams And don't be denied" -- Ben Harper, "Better Way" from "Both Sides of the Gun" CD
This will be my last check-in before I see you all in DC!
For Bay Area CODEPINKers, please come to my send-off party before I catch a "peace train" to DC with my husband. This Sunday, April 30, starting at 7 p.m. Refreshments, readings, fun! The hardcore can accompany us to the Martinez train station.
I'll be posting text and photos to a blog on the CODEPINK national website. I don't have a laptop, so I'll just find an internet cafe here and there as I cross North America, and upload to Farida, our amazing CODEPINK webmistress. Click on Pink Blogs on the left side of the home page to read my and others' blogs.
As I cross the continent, going from California to Oregon to Montana to the Midwest to NYC to DC, I will be looking for signs of the damage this war has done to our country, and for signs of resistance. Who knows what I'll find... who knows what I will overhear and be able to pick up on. The reality of this war has been denied, especially since "Mission Accomplished," but drains us, bleeds us, corrupts us, torments us. How that shows up in ordinary life is what I want to explore.
I'll close by saying something that is usually not said by the "left" (however one defines that): I love my country. I love OUR country. I am leaving my small home, with its comforts and its limits, for our larger home: the strange beautiful violent continent-scape known by the oddly generic name of "The United States."
Wish me a good journey, and I wish you the same. See you in DC!
Like most (or all) of you, over the past terrible 3 years since the invasion of Iraq, I have thought: why don't people do more? Speak up? Take risks? Leave their daily lives behind? Do SOMETHING to oppose and help end the war?
Then in January, I attended a CODEPINK meeting and heard Suzanne Joi speak passionately about a planned series of actions in Washington, DC, beginning with a 24-hour vigil in Lafayette Park in front of the White house, from Saturday afternoon, May 13 through Sunday, May 14, Mother's Day 2006. Suzanne called this “Mother's Day Month” and she urged all of us at the meeting to seriously commit to going to DC for a month to honor the original feminist, pro-peace intention of Mother's Day, and to work for a full defunding of the war and withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. (For a full description, see www.womensayenough.org.)
She and another woman got into an intense debate over “DC vs. local” and various other points. As they were debating, I felt that, for the first time in my life, I had to go to DC. That I was “people.” That it was time for me to step forward, interrupt my daily life, and make the commitments of time, money, and energy that I have been waiting, anxiously and angrily, for others to make.
I immediately felt much better.
So I AM going to Washington, DC for Mother's Day… and John is going with me! After much discussion, we decided to make this journey the good old-fashioned way: by train! Our itinerary:
Depart Martinez, CA 4/30
Arrive Portland, OR 5/1
Depart Portland, OR 5/3
Arrive Chicago, IL 5/5
Depart Chicago, IL 5/6
Arrive NYC 5/7
Depart NYC 5/10
Arrive DC 5/10
We call this “Catching the Peace Train to DC” and we invite all of you to participate in the following ways.
One: Send us, by email or regular mail, or post below messages against the war and for peace that I can read at the Open Mic in Lafayette Park sometime during the 24-hour vigil. You may wish to dedicate your message to your mother, a woman in history who has inspired you, or to another woman (or women) you wish to honor.
Two: Come to DC! (Oh sure, you're thinking, like I can do THAT… but who knows, you may be able to after all!) Or you may know someone in DC or the local area who can commit to this action.
Three: Spread the word! Tell friends and family about “Catching a Peace Train to DC” but more importantly, about the Mother's Day actions. I am happy to talk to anyone who is interested. As far as the send-off party, the more the merrier.
Every week as I update the number of “US Combat DEAD” on the CODEPINK banner we hold at our Concord vigil (Galindo and Salvio streets, every Wednesday, 5:15 to 6:15 p.m.), I feel anew the sadness and horror of this war, the weight of the costs we can calculate… and the costs we cannot calculate. This week, as I read Seymour Hersh's article analyzing the possibility of a US air attack on Iran, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons (see www.truthout.org), I feel the fear of yet another nightmare of war. Like all of you, I feel the deep anxiety of our times.
But as I prepare for this journey, as I hold the CODEPINK banner and receive the honks, waves, peace signs, smiles and shouts of support, I feel something else, too. Joy, and a determination to help bring our troops home and to start rebuilding our country.
In different ways, you all inspire me. Thank you for your support!
By Rae Abileah, CODEPINK Local Group Coordinator Today Eman spoke at the House of Truth in Alameda to a crowd of the Bay Area's usual anti-war suspects: compassionate, wonderful people interested to hear about what is going on in Iraq, equipped with thought-provoking questions and big hearts. Below is a rough transcript of her talk.
Before her talk, Karen (my mom) and I took Eman for a little sight seeing. It was a typically foggy SF day, but it was also especially drizzly and cold. From the look of these photos, it could be November, not April! We went to the top of Twin Peaks for a view of the whole city and to the Golden Gate Bridge. Eman exclaimed, “But it's not golden!” when we approached. We had a great afternoon together.
After Eman's talk a group of us went out to dinner at a local Chinese food restaurant. In this photo you can see June Brashares, fearless and talented Iraqi Women's Tour coordinator, her partner Woody, Sureya, Eman, event organizer Susan, and my mom, Karen. We had fun reading our fortunes from the cookies. June's said “You work very hard.” I can vouch for the truth in this one. June has extraordinarily coordinated the tours for the Iraqi women. When looking over these itineraries--complete with logistics, transportation, events at high schools, colleges, community centers, government offices, visits to see Iraqi children, etc.--it is apparent that June is a miracle worker.
This tour would have never been possible without her phenomenal coordinating.
Eman's Talk at the House of Truth, Alameda, California Bombing of Cities
Bush announced that the military invasions ended in May of 2003. This is not true because the invasions continue even now and many cities are regularly bombed, such as Fallujah. Last November Fallujah was completely flattened, and since then many cities have been bombed [Eman lists so many names that I cannot type fast enough to get them all on the page].
The Americans say that by bombing these cities they are targeting these individual terrorists who are hiding in homes. According to the Geneva Conventions it is illegal to bomb cities under any circumstance. When you bomb a city from a very high altitude you definitely kill civilians. Thousands of Iraqis have been killed in this way, and not only people, but hospitals, bridges, marketplaces, everything is left destroyed. When they bomb a city they first put it under siege for days, cutting supplies, water, electricity, medicines, from going inside. In many cases families are shot on the highway when attempting to leave the city. When they bomb, nothing is spared. Anywhere where terrorists are suspected is bombed. After the bombing, and they all have Hollywood names like Swarmer, The Spear, Steel Curtain, etc., there are violent invasions and raids of houses. More civilians are killed. Anything that moves in the street is a target and is shot at; in many cases people are killed.
During the bombing no medical assistance from hospitals is permitted—ambulances are shot in the streets and destroyed. When there are raids, the men are arrested and taken to the nearest military base where they are held until released, but not before they are beaten, humiliated, and their houses are destroyed. Many families run away from the bombing and look for a safer place in refugee camps which may be tents in the desert, deserted buildings, bombed public buildings, unfinished construction sites, rooms in a friends house, mosques, wherever there is a roof, the people go. The conditions in these places are inhuman; people run away without any of their belongings so they have nothing. This is especially difficult for people with special needs like pregnant women, elderly, children. They don't have water, fuel, food, etc. The help is limited and what is available cannot reach these places. Example of Ramana, a village across from Baghdad, separated by a river, the bridge was bombed, supplies totally cut. Emergency aid relief organizations could not get there both because it was very dangerous and because they couldn't physically get there.
Men that are arrested are taken to the nearest base where if they are found suspect they are sent to a detention camp. We know there are 18 detention camps; I personally know about 6, some of which I have visited. You know about Abu Grahib. There is another prison in the airport. There is one in the south, Camp Bucher, near the Kuwait border. The problem with these prisons is that the prisoners are not prisoners in the way you understand. They are just people who are waiting for their cases to be processed. I know about people who have been waiting 2 years only to hear that their file has been reviewed and they have found to be good and clean and are let out, all after two years of hunger and torture and bad conditions. Another prison in the north is called Badush, north of Mosul. Another is near Sureymaniya, called Souzer [note these are phonetic spellings, not correct English names]. This is a new prison that the Iraqis are responsible. [Eman lists more prisons.] The majority of the families of prisoners are very poor and it is very difficult to visit.
We all know about the Abu-Grahib scandal. Bush and Rumsfeld said these were isolated incidents, not systematic procedures that are being repeated everywhere. I have met prisoners from all these places that talk about the same kinds of torture. Al Baghdadi is a prison 200 km west of Baghdad where many young men who were released talk about an American officer who calls himself Satan, short, with lots of tattoos, typical torture techniques but the prisoners said they were kept naked in the open in a yard regardless of the temperature—cold or very hot. In one case a prisoner was dragged naked on the ground until he died. The Scorpion is a torture technique where the prisoner's hands and feet are tied up and the back is stamped on by the foot. The coffin is a wooden box where the prisoner is kept for days without eating, drinking, and without sleeping. After these kinds of torture these people were released, showing that they were innocent, and then they tell me their stories. Their rights have been violated, and their families are left without any financial or moral support or help. Iraqi families are big.
After the Iraqi government took office last January 2005, we have a new problem: Iraqi prisons, something unimaginable in terms of torture and maltreatment. In one hall you can find hundreds of prisoners, without enough space to move so they take turns sleeping. The prisoners are left without sanitation. They have rotten body parts and wombs. The torture includes breaking the bones, hanging the people from their sensitive parts, peeling their skin with hot irons. This kind of torture kills. The bodies are later found in out of the way places, like under bridges, and in the deserts. The Missing
The prisoners in some of these prisons are not even listed in the records, so that their families cannot find them, especially those arrested at the fall of Baghdad, March 20, 2003-May 1, 2003.
I had the chance to meet General Brandenburg, the American advisor to the ministry of justice in Iraq who oversees all the prisons, and I asked him about the people arrested during this period, and I gave him the eyewitness information. I gave him the names and all the information about these people in English and Arabic in print outs and on CD. I did this last summer. He has not met with me since. I gave this information to the ministry of justice and still there has been no reply. Now they tell me that there is a new person, General Gardner, who is responsible for the prisons. Still none of this information has been given.
The situation for the missing is even more tragic because their families are looking for them but cannot find them. I don't know why the American Army would conceal the whereabouts of these people.
As you know one of Bush's goals in Iraq was to liberate women. Well, we did not need his help. In our constitution men and women are 100% equal. As far as culture and traditions are concerned, we have many problems, which we used to address with education. I always believe that the development of women is part of the development of society. You cannot develop only women separately. Certainly you are not going to help them with tanks. You are not liberating women with bombs. You are making women widows or orphans. Mothers, wives, or daughters of detained, missing, or killed people would not think about liberating issues; they'd concentrate on their own problems first—legal support, how to support their families without the men, etc.
For a girl to be in a refugee camp is very difficult. Houses in Iraq are not just for eating and sleeping; they are each sacred. Women in houses are like queens inside their houses. Being deprived of houses and having to live in tents is incredibly difficult for women.
We have many women organizations in Iraq after the occupation, a strange phenomena. Every day we hear about new organizations being created. There are conferences and congresses and meetings, some of which I went to. The women who are there are all women who have come into Iraq after the invasion, very elegant, well dressed, with jewelery and high heels and perfect English. They are talking about problems for Iraqi women but they don't talk about women prisoners, detainees, refugee camps, etc. They talk about women being involved in the political process. What political process? We had an election and still we don't have a government. They are happy that 25% of the National Assembly is women, but where is this National Assembly? I have traveled around Iraqi cities in the south [lists names] where there is relatively little fighting, but the situation is much worse, there are people living in hills of garbage; there are thousands of homeless. Where are the women's organizations there?
Elimination of the Intelligencia
Assassination of medical doctors and professors. 224 Iraqi senior doctors have been assassinated. 130 senior university professors have been assassinated. Why are these people being targeted? They are not necessarily Sunni or Shiite, they are Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Muslim, etc. In the month that I have been here there have been two Iraqi doctors and one professor assassinated. Why aren't the Americans or the Iraqis doing anything to stop the killing of the minds of Iraqis? Thousands more intellectuals have left the country out of fear and our now living in neighboring Arab countries and in Europe. Now the hospitals don't have enough senior staff and the universities are short academics.
These are the main issues that I work on. The most dangerous is what is happening now. One of the oldest, biggest mosques was bombed, a Shiite mosque. The Sheik a week ago asked the prime minister to step down because he is not able to create a government in the four months he's been overseeing the country. This man is very stubborn. This Sheik was the only Shiite to ask Jaafary to step down.
Iraq now is in a very dark tunnel and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It is very important for the Americans to end this occupation immediately.
Q and A
Do the Iraqi people know about depleted uranium?
Yes, I asked the Iraqi doctors about this. There are many cancers and birth defects following attacks in 1991. Now we know that the American bullets and bombs are DU strengthened. The doctors say that it is hard to say now because it takes time to see the effects. There are other chemical weapons we are seeing. What about the threat of a civil war?
Things were run over the past three years that would seem to lead this way, from bad to worse. Every day the troops are losing more control of the situation. Everything is getting worse and worse. The fact that the troops are there is the problem because they are targeted and because they continue to bomb and shoot. A very big part of the violence is because they are there. Bush said that when Iraq is stable we will leave, we don't want to leave; this is a twisted logic—as long as the troops are there, there will not be stability. Bush needs to specify an exit time, an end for the occupation. This is what the Iraqis have been asking for during the past three years—a schedule, a timetable. Many Iraqis boycotted the political process because they only want to know when the troops will leave and they don't get any answer. At a Cairo political party conference, the one point of solidarity on all parties' platforms was to demand a timetable for withdrawal and an acknowledgement of the right to resistance. It is not impossible to have this demand met. The Americans need to show some simple goodwill to the Iraqis. They don't show any sign of leaving. If they leave there not necessarily be civil war.
As you have been traveling the country and speaking with people who may have less political involvement, do you have a hope for what people could do differently to make a change?
I have been traveling for more than a month and I am really surprised to see how compassionate and understanding people are to the plight of the Iraqis I am also surprised at how little people know what's really going on in Iraq, asking questions like, “Are our troops nice there?” There are strategic and political reasons in the policymakers' heads that the American people are not aware of. I am confident that when American people know what's really going on, they will act accordingly and reject what is happening. I just read the recent poll that 69% of the people think that the US is wrong on this issue. I think it is time and I am very optimistic on this issue that the American people can put pressure on the government. So what was the real interest of the US in invading Iraq?
[Basically, imperialism and oil.]
Removing the US troops is one piece of the puzzle. What's the rest—other political parties, UN, etc?
UN, etc. Leaders are intelligent, but there are now armed militias inside Iraq and these militias want power regardless of how many Iraqis are killed. If these militias are cut of any kind of support, then they will be defeated. Iraqis are capable of ruling our own country. What about how the US ended the dictatorship of Saddam?
Well, there are many dictatorships in the world; why Saddam? Is Saudi Arabia or Kuwait democratic enough to be friends with the US?
Tigris and Euphrates: What about the issue of water?
Turkey has put tens of dams on these rivers. There are international agreements about the use of rivers that run between countries, but Turkey does not respect these agreements so the Euphrates is a small stream now. There are many articles about the Israeli project of opening a river into Israel. The issue of water is very important for the Middle East, especially for Israel and Turkey. Besides oil, there are many important resources, minerals like iron and gold in Iraq. Iraqi soil has been exported to the Gulf.
Do people in Iraq have a memory of the 1953 overthrow of a democratic regime by the US? Yes…. How are the homeless people getting food?
People survive. They have small businesses like selling cigarettes, etc. They do anything to eat. They work as servants. There are some charity organizations; mosques help a lot regardless of Sunni or Shiite. It is a miserable situation. Especially in Basra. They live in bombed or illegal housing [like squatting on land]. Poverty is a huge problem. Iraq is now one of the most poor nations in the world.
Who has weapons in Iraq?
There are all kinds of people holding arms in Iraq now—many armies that are part of the coalition; Iraqi political parties with militias; Iraqi police; military and paramilitary who were trained outside the country by the US before and after the war; intelligence of every country of the world wearing Arabic dress. 2 British soldiers who were arrested by the Sadr movement for car bombs. Took them to the police station; police station was raided by British and two soldiers were freed. And Iraqis who are angry that their country is occupied, fathers whose children were killed; they fight. And people who want to protect their families and don't feel safe. Violence is everywhere. Everyone is shooting, fighting. What is the most significant thing that Americans do to help?
People must be held responsible for what they have done -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, etc. for history and for justice. Put pressure on the US government and expose the reality.
A Southern, Muslim, and American Perspective on Dr. Zidan by Michelle Al-Shishani
Dr. Rashad Zidan finally gave a face to the suffering - the victims, the orphans and widows. For thousands who have heard her message at various venues throughout the country, she has given them a face and given them a voice.
She brought pictures – pictures like those which we have become too accustomed to seeing – and told of her experiences since the invasion - as a mother of four and as a doctor. She speaks of the horrors which now shape their daily lives – of the terror inflicted upon them by the troops of the occupation. When asked what she enjoyed most about America, she remarked on the quiet of the nights - this is the first time in three years she has slept without bombing, without the nightly raids and gunfire.
She spoke of having to give up her pharmacy – because it is no longer safe to travel to and from work alone as she was accustomed to doing. She now runs several organizations which help the thousands of widows and orphans in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib. A pharmacist who now must watch the sick succumb to the rigors of disease, having nothing to offer but apologies to the mothers for there is no medicine to treat their dying children. Children dying of simple diseases, and children dying of cancer - a cancer brought about largely by America's use of depleted uranium for three years now, caused by the destruction of the basic infrastructure like water treatment plants. In a land of the Tigris and Euphrates, there is no clean water.
She spoke of the horrors of their daily lives – always on the edge, ready for anything. Life under Saddam was not perfect, but for those who were just interested in their own lives, they were safe. He committed atrocities, it is true - but against those he considered enemies who dared to challenge his power. Now all are seen as possible enemies of the state – no one is safe anywhere - at school – or work – or home. Every day they send their children off to school, to be searched by American soldiers on their way, with just faith in God that they will come home, their school not accidentally destroyed, becoming yet another casualty. Faith and hope that their spouses and children won't be caught in the crossfire, or in random shooting – or to just disappear from the face of the earth. She is literally exhausted here from her tour of press offices, meetings with government officials, tv studios, and rallies. But the exhaustion she feels is nothing compared to the pure physical and mental exhaustion which they live with every day in coping with the occupation.
She speaks of similar exhaustion, the sheer frustration from dealing with the unknown which is taking its toll on our troops. Youth, unsure of their place, unsure of the players – who in desperation search even the small children on the way to school and hold rooms of women and children at gunpoint. The stress which culminates in scenes like Haditha – where frustrated at death of their colleagues – American troops murdered 15 civilians in cold blood. We've seen it before, and it's happening again.
The doctor's message: Please leave. End the occupation. Iraq is an ancient civilization which has not only endured, but prospered for far more centuries than America has been in existence. They can take care of themselves.
We have become desensitized to the horror, to the heinous atrocities to which we are silent witnesses - she has asked us only to break our guilty silence. Dr. Martin Luther King realized a generation ago, that “we shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
She didn't expect the outpouring of support she has received here – from all segments of society – from mothers who are worried about their children, veterans of the war, even government officials surprisingly willing to listen. Support from every side, but oddly very little from muslims in America. She is returning to Iraq with good news for her people – that the official policy of the American government does not accurately reflect the feelings and wishes of the American public - that there is hope. The American public has stood up before in the face of injustice, and they may hope that we will again. She has heard our message – the question is, have we heard hers? We live here in America where we have the right and the power to effect change. Atrocities are being committed in our name on both sides, as Americans and as muslims. When will we finally stand up for right, stand up for justice, break the silence and just stand up break the wicked silence?
Today was Entisar's last day in the US. We awoke early to make the trip from New Jersey into Manhattan to attend a women's conference that was intending to bridge Iraqi and American women. The Iraqi women at the conference had all experienced a great degree of trauma and had opposing views about the US occupation that were not evenly represented or adequately moderated. Faiza will be blogging about this conference on her site (see www.afamilyinbaghdad.blogspot.com).
At noon we went to a wonderful going away luncheon for Entisar that was coordinated by CODEPINK NYC. CODEPINK women sat in a circle and munched on salads while Entisar shared her experiences in the US and her hopes for returning to Iraq and spreading the message that there are compassionate people in the US who are passionately working to stop the war, and also that the ideal of democracy is not fully realized in our country. Entisar said that it will be difficult to explain the massive ignorance about the situation on the ground in Iraq to people in her country because of the pervasive idea that the US is so technologically advanced and well-educated, that surely the populace must understand what's going on. Entisar described how astounded she was by the generosity of the people who hosted her in their homes and the compassion of the peace organizers that she met. Faiza, Rashad, and Aseel also joined us for the lunch and it was wonderful to have so many phenomenal women in one room. In the afternoon Entisar packed and we ran errands and briefly met with a dean at Barnard College before getting in a cab to go to the airport. At JFK we stood in line for a long time waiting to check in Entisar's bags. Everyone had huge bags and most people were speaking Arabic. I did not want to say goodbye to this incredible woman who landed in my life and changed me forever, so I told her that someday we would meet in Iraq or in the US again, and she said words to me in Arabic that my heart understood, and I turned and walked out of the airport and back into a surprisingly balmy New York night.
When I landed in NYC there was snow covering the ground in Central Park. The morning after Entisar left I awoke to daffodil blossoms, sunlight, and a warm breeze. One month and so much as changed. Thousands of people bore witness to Entisar's words and her strong presence in classrooms, churches, parks, on bullhorns at rallies in the street, and inside of homes throughout the South and the Northeast. Dozens of news interviews in local and national papers, TV and radio stations reached even more people.
There are those brief moments in life when someone runs into your heart, unexpectedly ripping open chambers you did not know existed, expanding your capacity to love and empathize with people around the world. I unexpectedly took on the task of coordinating Entisar's tour and soon found myself accompanying her to Alabama, Florida, and later the New England states. I watched her break open day after day recalling the bombing of hospitals and ambulances, the death of pregnant women killed en route to the hospital in the middle of the night, her daughters' struggle to receive an adequate medical education in the middle of a war, the shaking of the ground and the turbulence in her 10 year old's eyes at daybreak, the way even Valium doesn't stop fear and anxiety. Entisar said that she feels like an agent of death because she is a medical professional that is unable to deliver care and medicines to those in need. Through her tour in the US, she was an agent of change, breathing life into people through her raw account of daily life in Baghdad, her inspiring vision of hope, and her demand that we stand up and raise our voices to end the occupation.
As I was finishing writing this blog at a café in DC, a man saw my pile of pinkness-jacket, sweatshirt, bag, etc.--and came over to find out if indeed I was a CODEPINKer. Upon my affirmation, he immediately told me how moved he was by the experience of attending the event at the Foundry church with the Iraqi delegation during the week of International Women's Day. He said that it is one thing to read about what's going on over the internet and in the paper, and quite another thing to meet people in person who describe what it's like to be a mother in a war zone, saying that it isn't safe for their children to go outside. We will never know how many thousands of lives the women on this tour have touched, and how their stories will ripple out to the family and friends of those they met with at events around the country. We can say that this tour has been one of the most important projects we have successfully coordinated And I can say that there is one person who has been changed forever: me.
I am returning to my hometown, San Francisco, with a stronger sense of dedication to this peace work, a personal reason to continue working with women around the country (and abroad) to stop war: that reason is called Entisar, Faiza, Eman, Rashad, Nadje, and Sureya, six brave Iraqi women who are counting on ordinary American people to stand up and refuse to live silently in relative security and bliss knowing that our sisters and brothers in another country are dying under US occupation and continued warfare. In my heart, I know that we will not let them down.
On Monday night Rutgers Against the War and the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, along with a host of other Rutgers University campus groups, hosted Entisar at a dinner and an evening event. The event was very well attended in a graduate student meeting room—standing room only. Entisar spoke and shared her slide show of images of civilian casualties and the effects of bombing on the infrastructure. There was over an hour for Q & A and the students asked great questions. I noticed that the majority of the question askers were men and encourage more women to speak up, several women then asked some very good questions about women's health issues in Iraq and women's rights under the new constitution. The event was a success in large part due to the outstanding organizing efforts of Suzan, a first-year student at Rutgers. It was great to end Entisar's tour on a high note with this last speaking event. Entisar really enjoys speaking with young people and later told me that this was one of the best events that she spoke at.
After the event we went out for coffee with some of the students, one of whom was from Palestine and said that if she closed her eyes and listened to the atrocities of occupation that Entisar was describing, it sounded just like what her family and people were experiencing in Palestine. The Muslim students invited Entisar and the Iraqi women's delegation to come back to NJ and speak at the mosque. Entisar and I stayed at Dorothy's home near the campus. Dorothy has a beautiful house and a huge heart. We had a great time staying with her and appreciate that she woke up very early to drive us to the bus station so that we could get to NYC in time for a morning conference.
Read about this event in the NJ newspaper by following the link below:
Entisar checks out the wood stove while the pink pancakes cook on the griddle.
A relaxing breakfast at last!
Entisar paints a banner for the event.
Group at the sugar house.
In the forest.
Setting up for the event at the church.
Entisar's interpreter, Huda.
On Saturday night we met with Tish and Priscilla, the co-coordinators of the new CODEPINK local group in Western Massachusetts. These wonderful women drove two hours to Boston to join us for dinner after the organizing conference, and then drove two hours back to Priscilla's home, where we spent a relaxing evening gathered around the fireplace, chatting and getting to know each other. Priscilla lives in a farm house that is over 200 years old. The house has a splendid life of its own and we explored all the rooms—each room is a different color and is decorated with antiques. Entisar was particularly astounded by Priscilla's antique cooking stove, which we used to cook pink pancakes for breakfast the next morning. We had a relaxing day in the countryside on Sunday. We painted a banner in Arabic and English that reads “End the Occupation!” Tish and Priscilla took us to a Sugarhouse to see how maple syrup is made. We found out that it takes 40 gallons of tapped sap from maple trees to make 1 gallon of syrup.
Then we went into the woods and hiked up to the Buddhist Peace Pagoda—a giant white dome with gold Buddha sculptures and a rock garden at the top of the hill. Halfway up Entisar and I decided to run. We were panting by the time we reached the summit. Entisar turned to me and between deep breaths she said, “Reaching peace is very difficult... Like the struggle of the Iraqi people.” The reward of this long, and in so many ways metaphoric, walk up was a breathtaking view of the valley below and the peace and quiet of being surrounded by trees and this sacred site. The way may be difficult, but the journey is worth it.
In the evening we drove into Amherst for an event at Grace Episcopal Church that was packed with people. Entisar spoke, showed slides, and fielded questions. Many people wanted to donate to help Entisar's work in Iraq. Jo from the American Friends Service Committee spoke about how people in Western Massachusetts can get involved in legislative work and other activist opportunities.
On Monday morning Tish and Priscilla drove Entisar and I to New Haven where we took the train to New Jersey.
By Rae Abileah, CODEPINK Local Group Coordinator On Friday morning, we took the bus from New York City to Boston, Massachusetts. We were surprised by the very strict security and bag check at the Greyhound terminal. We thought it was almost more difficult to get on the bus than on the plane!
In Boston we stayed with Susana, a professional musician and activist. Susana played us some of her amazing cello music and we had tea together.
On Friday night, Pat and Shelagh organized a potluck dinner and discussion about the occupation of Iraq. Many people were in disbelief when they heard Entisar's experiences about daily life in Baghdad. They had many questions that lasted late into the night. We met George, a man who traveled to Iraq nine times before the war to document the impact of the sanctions and to deliver humanitarian aid to families that he continues to be in touch with. The next morning George delivered a dvd of his trips to us, and showed us photos and artwork from his trips to Iraq.
On Saturday morning, Entisar, Aseel, and I had breakfast with doctors and physician assistants in Boston who are involved in social justice work, many of whom had traveled to the Middle East before.
Saturday afternoon Entisar spoke at a regional anti-war organizing conference entitled “From Baghdad to Boston: Organizing for Peace and Justice.”
Susana gave Entisar a guitar for her daughters to play. Entisar asked Susana to sign the guitar for her.
Entisar and Susana.
The main organizers of the conference all went out to dinner at a Cambodian restaurant.
As I have traveled around the US on speaking tour organized by the women's peace group CODEPINK, I realize how support for the war in Iraq has eroded—even among former supporters. George Bush, seeing his approval rating plummeting to below 40%, is worried and has launched a PR offensive to shore up support. In his recent speeches, he has complained that violent images on TV have undermined public support. So when the US military launched a massive air and ground assault on towns near Samarra, dubbed Operation Swarmer, the Pentagon barred even imbedded reporters. The American public was told that Operation Swarmer was a successful example of US and Iraqi forces working together to wipe out insurgents, but they saw nothing of the effects of the assault on the ground.
But while the public is fed rosy propaganda, the reality is far more gruesome. Take, for example, the operation in Isshaqi, a small village near Samarra. At 1:30am on Tuesday, March 21, the American troops, accompanied by helicopters , raided the modest rural home of a primary school teacher, Faiz Mratt. According to his neighbor Mohammad Al-Majma, the 27-year-old school teacher, his wife, their three children, his sister, her three children, his father and a woman who was visiting them were all arrested, tied, and beaten, and then the American troops opened fire on the family. “After they executed them, the troops put explosives in the house and blew it up,” said Mohammad, crying. “They killed even the farm animals”
Faiz's surviving sister was devastated. “They killed my mother, Torkiya Majid, who was 90 years old,” she cried. “They killed Faiz's three children: Hawra, 4, Aysha 2, and Hussam, who was only 4 months old. They killed my sister Faiza, who was also a schoolteacher, and her children Osama 6, and Asmaa, 5.”
Aziz Khalil, 30, and his fiancée Nidhal Mohammad, 23, who were to be married on Thursday, were also killed. All told, the operation to kill “insurgents” left six children and four women dead.
Unfortunately, we Iraqis have many more examples of US forces killing innocent civilians. The US public might not see or hear about them, but we do. It pains us to see our people killed, abused, tortured, and these actions fuel the insurgency.
A portion of the US public might still think the US is bringing democracy to Iraq. If they only saw the bodies of the dead children, if they only heard the wailing of the mothers, if they only saw the anger in eyes of the survivors, they would call for an end to this horror.
Eman Ahmad Khamas is a human rights advocate who has documented abuses by the occupation forces. She is a member of Women's Will, and traveling the around the U.S. on a month-long speaking tour organized by CODEPINK and Global Exchange.
New York Stock Exchange -- surrounded by barricades and police.
Aseel and Entisar on the Staten Island Ferry.
The wind was so strong that Aseel wrapped her scarf around her head like a hijab. Entisar loved Aseel's new look.
Entisar and Aseel check out the anti-war exhibit at the Whitney.
Entisar and Aseel at Washington Square.
Today we were in a New York state of mind—bouncing around the city to see the sights, taste the gritty air, and feel the commotion that we had been for days insulated from while traipsing through the streets in yellow cabs and staying inside at events. We started the day early with an interview at WBAI with Mimi. While Entisar and Aseel were being taped in one studio, I spoke with Tio in the reception area about the military presence on the Reservations in the US, and the heavy recruiting of Native American youth. When Entisar and Aseel emerged from the recording room, Tio spontaneously invited them to be on his show for five minutes, connecting the occupation of Iraq with the struggle of indigenous peoples everywhere, and specifically in the Americas.
After the interview, we walked around downtown. We strolled down Wall Street to check out the New York Stock Exchange. Since 9/11 ordinary people cannot go inside to see the trade floor and there is a big barrier set up in the middle of the street, blocking regular traffic. We saw a bomb detector vehicle and mean looking dogs, and many snarling dogs. All this security protects this building which houses the continuous river of money. There are no such guards on the borders of Iraq or protecting the most sacred rivers in the cradle of humanity—the Tigris and the Euphrates. I take a photo of Aseel and Entisar outside this monstrous building with the giant American flag. America, land of the freed... Or land of the greed?
We walk further south to the port for the Staten Island Ferry. We board the ferry and travel across the water, looking at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We walk around Staten Island, where there is a memorial to the firefighters and police men who died when the towers fell, and there are seagulls and a cold breeze. Everything is bright white under the beaming sun and the crisp, clear air. It's as if the whole sky is a recording studio with bright lights, like the world's camera is on us today as we shuffle around the islands. The whole city is illuminated in this unforgiving splendor of light.
In the afternoon we go to the Whitney museum to see the Shocked and Awful exhibit that Deep Dish produced, and we take some extra time to check out the Georgia O'Keefe paintings and other modern art installations. I spend most of my time dodging museum security guards who want to throw me out for attempting to view fine art and field press calls on my cell phone at the same time. Entisar and I look at this one piece that is really mostly a splattering of paint—mostly black, a splotch of white, some red Entisar says the white in the middle is a bird. I say that maybe it is a bird of hope in the darkness, amidst the bloody backdrop. I know it sounds cliché. Entisar says maybe the bird is falling from the sky and portends something else, something darker. We laugh about all these interpretations. There is never a moment when Iraq is not on our minds. There is nothing that Entisar sees that does not relate back to Iraq, to the occupation. The most beautiful things we see—the statue, the ocean, the paintings, the universities, the wide open fields, the houses we stay in, all of them rest against the backdrop of bombing and rubble.
We eat dinner downtown and we walk through the village, amused at the lights and the kids bar hopping and all the routine joys surrounding NYU's campus. We sit in Washington Square and talk about the people we have met, the places we have been. Even in the dark, everything is still illuminated, special, despite that I have been here a thousand times before. There is this heightened awareness that I carry now—seeing at once the beauty, the chaos, and the way that it could all shatter in a war.
We started the day with a breakfast meeting with Donna who works with War Resisters League. Donna was interested in viewing the photos that Entisar brought on disk from Iraq. These images show Iraqi civilians wounded in unimaginable ways. I have been reviewing these photos day after day in the process of creating Entisar's various power point presentations, and somehow I have had to damper the rational innate response to scream and cry and really to throw up when I see the images of mangled bodies and deflated skulls, dead children and bullet wounds. There are also images from Al Jazeera, which shows what people in the Middle East are seeing on their television sets—a stark contrast to what we see on the 10 o'clock news here in the states. Resistance to this war in the US would be very different if Americans saw these pictures. That's precisely why Donna was interested in seeing the images: She wants to enlarge them and use them at demonstrations and public places to show people the reality of war.
After breakfast, we rushed downtown to the Deep Dish production studio, where Entisar was interviewed by David, who has an alternative radio station. This interview was also video recorded, and photographed. The Deep Dish crew were very warm and appreciative. They gave us copies of their films and now I am borrowing their video camera to film Entisar's tour.
After the interview, we returned uptown and we had a real BBQ lunch with Linda, a great CODEPINK NYC (and Westchester!) woman. We had the most midwestern of BBQ lunches in the heart of west Harlem. Linda took Entisar and Aseel shopping for the afternoon. In the evening, we—Entisar, Aseel, Medea, and I—stayed up late talking about stopping the war, corporate hegemony, and reconstruction corruption, and of course joking with each other and dreaming up a different world.
I know you are all as disturbed as I am about the ongoing U.S. debacle in Iraq. At the risk - no, with the intent - of increasing your discomfort, I want to share with you an experience I had last evening. Dr. Rashad Zidan, an Iraqi woman pharmacist, spoke to a crowd at North Carolina State University, and I was privileged to be a member of the audience that had gathered to bear witness. This stunningly intelligent, forthright and soulful woman - whose eyes reflect the pain and wisdom of a thousand years spoke to us clearly and cogently about what life is like for the common citizens of Iraq these days.
Dr. Zidan has had to close the pharmacy from which she dispensed what critical medicines were available during the extended period of U.S. economic sanctions against Iraq. It is no longer safe for her to travel by car to and from the pharmacy, as she did for many years under the Hussein regime. She has instead turned her energies toward providing support and makeshift schooling for orphans of the Iraq Occupation and widows who have been culturally barred from leaving their homes unaccompanied.
Dr. Zidan has four children, two of whom are under the age of 16. She voluntarily left her family behind to make a dangerous and challenging trip to the United States (the process of obtaining a visa took 5 arduous days), along with four other women, explicitly to engage in truthful dialog with the American people about what is going on in the cities and towns where ordinary Iraqis try to remain alive.
The news is not encouraging. Under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, most ordinary citizens lived a workable life: as long as they did not challenge the power of the established regime, they enjoyed the benefits of government-funded education and healthcare, supplied most of their own agricultural products and were able to circulate freely in conducting the business of working and raising their families. Sectarian strife was not pronounced or violent in most of the country; Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians lived, for the most part, in concert with one another in a manageable, if sometimes tenuous, balance.
Today, most Iraqi citizens - and most certainly most women and children - are imprisoned in their homes, where they spend evenings in the dark listening to the sounds of bombs and gunfire. Dr. Zidan's work brings her in contact with children whose small lives have been permanently scarred by the vision of watching their entire families die as part of the "collateral damage" of our aggression. I could not listen to her speak of this, cannot even write about it, without tears welling up from a deep taproot in my own sense of common humanity. The numbers of Iraqi dead from this war of aggression have been grossly under-reported. Dr Zidan believes that the correct figure is somewhere between 300 and 350 thousand. It will take many, many villages to raise their children..
By contrast, Dr. Zidan was startled to see a canned goods food collection for Katrina victims at one of the American sites where she has spoken. She was equally startled to hear of the extraordinary costs many of us must incur to obtain needed medical care. She asked us simply and non-aggressively, "If your government can't take care of people in your own country, why do they think they could help ours by bringing us your 'democracy'?"
The remarkable part of this experience for me was to watch the incredible mobility and expressiveness of this woman's face - brought into sharp relief by her Muslim head covering. Despite the continuous saga of fear, grief and pain that characterizes daily life for Dr. Zidan and her contemporaries, she remains capable of feeling and communicating hope, wit and genuine good will toward those of us who are willing to acknowledge the failure of our government's policies in Iraq. She is a remarkable testimony to the vitality of the human spirit.
Dr. Zidan is undergoing a travel schedule that would bring me to my knees: from Iraq to Washington, DC, to North Carolina, to St. Louis, back to North Carolina, to South Carolina, to New York, back to Washington, DC. She is subjecting herself to this extraordinarily grueling "talk circuit" because she believes that we - the American people - need to hear and know the truth. And she believes that we are better than what appears to be the case to her fellow citizens in Iraq. I hope her presence with us, and her witness to the truth, can inspire all of us to raise up our voices - repeatedly, and for as long as it takes, to prove her right. We are all complicit in this horror unless we are doing whatever we can, in whatever way makes sense to us, to end the human catastrophe in Iraq. That's what Democracy is all about.
By Rae Abileah, CODEPINK Local Group Coordinator On Tuesday we had a full day of activities in Manhattan. Here are the photos that tell the story:
Entisar speaks at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University to a crowd of graduate students and professors.
Group photo outside the Columbia Law School.
Entisar and Aseel outside Columbia's Law Library.
Entisar tours Barnard College.
A New York Moment: Ariel, Aseel, and Entisar in a cab... And on the phone.
Entisar speaks on a panel at Hunter College at the Bella Abzug lecture entitled Engendering Occupation. The other pannelists were Medea Benjamin and Asli Bali. Students asked questions about the media, what to do to stop the war, what would happen if the troops left, and more. Hunter College hosted a reception after the event and CODEPINK NYC had a vibrant pink presence. Many thanks to Rupal Oza for coordinating such a great event! A transcription of this event is below.
Medea speaks at the Bella Abzug lecture
Entisar speaks at a Town Hall meeting organized by United for Peace and Justice at 1199 SEIU in midtown. Congressman Charley Rangel listened to Entisar's testimony of life in Baghdad under US occupation. Entisar was interviewed by CBS news.
Excerpt from Entisar's talk at Hunter College:
Mr. Bush claimed that he would be bringing democracy to Iraq, bringing this model to the Middle East, and I can tell you that he has done nothing but take away our rights. Iraq was occupied without the UN approval. Mr. Bremmer entered my country and changed the laws, which is against the law for occupying powers. It is the duty of the occupying power to restore order and keep chaos from happening; that's not what has happened. The military is taking women in the middle of the night, taking the children, using family members as ransom. They let vicious dogs take parts of the woman's limbs if they don't say what they want them to say. They even take the children's rights-children cannot live safely in their homes anymore-they have to stay in camps outside the city or bombed hospitals in some cases. They deprive the children from nutrition, healthcare, safety, all due to the occupation. They deprive us from any civil rights, they can take anyone at any time-men from their homes, universities, they come and put the black bag over their heads, cuff their hands, and they're gone, without an excuse or a reason. The missing person will disappear for months, maybe years, without going to court, and will be beaten and abused in the prisons. They use illegal weapons, such as depleted uranium, and today in Fallujah and Al-Quaem, white phosphorus. They use a type of weapon that, upon impact, shatters the entire body. The environment is contaminated because the clean water has been mixed with the sewer. There is no electricity. Killing innocent civilians is a violation of Geneva laws, bombing hospitals, schools, ambulances. Many ambulances have been targeted.
And now, even me working in the medical field, I feel like I participate in the killing of innocent people; do you know why? Because we don't have the supplies to save lives-intravenous fluid, anti-hypertensive drugs, pitocene, etc. Don't you think you would feel the same way if you were in my place? Like you are participating in the killing? We ask the Ministry of Health when they are going to supply us with money to buy the necessary medicine, but they only give us flowers, furniture, and paint for the walls. Many pregnant women died because there wasn't anti-hypertension or pitocene to give them. Doctors quit their jobs because they didn't want to feel the pain of being responsible for the loss of these pregnant women's lives. Don't you think this would be a successful case study for the taking of all human rights and international laws? It must be studied by specialists in this field. Thank you.
Excerpt from Medea Benjamin's talk at Hunter College:
Medea asked the audience the following questions:
How many of you were against the occupation from the start?
How man of you weren't sure?
How many of you think that we're safer at home because we're fighting the troops over seas?
How many of you think that the troops should come home now?
By the end of the year?
Stay as long as it takes to get the job done?
There was a varied number of hands that went up for each question. Medea said that she was glad to see that there were some differing opinions in the room so we could have a lively discussion. She then continued:
Being against the war used to be a minority position, but during this past summer, we saw an immense change in the polls so that now those against the war are in the majority, despite the heavy propaganda we are receiving from the Bush administration, which says that things are going well in Iraq and that the war is winnable, and the corporate media that spews lies… As we are seeing in the civilian casualties today, this policy doesn't work… We were told that this war would be a cakewalk, we'd be welcomed with open arms, and the money would come from the oil reserves. When you count all the extra costs… it is 1.3 trillion dollars, and that's coming from our pockets. We were in DC with the delegation of six Iraqi women and congresswomen Lynn Woolsey… who said $19,000 per household is being spent on war. Today we are celebrating the life of Bella Abzug and we know that women must stand up! She was a woman who stood up and called for the impeachment of Nixon during the Vietnam War, talked about the danger of nuclear weapons and the need for disarmament, and addressed corporate crime. We have to think about how to celebrate the life of this congresswoman who gave us such passion and creativity for how to change the world. She showed us true sisterhood and inspired us… Not only are there terrible Republican warmongers but there are Democrats who enable their work, such as Hillary Clinton… We want Hillary to be an example of a beacon of reason calling for an end to the invasion of Iraq… (Medea went on to explain the bird dog Hillary campaign).
It doesn't matter what group you get involved with, it matters that you get involved and do something!
When we say womenkind, we include our male allies in that. We invite you to join us. One of our recent campaigns is the Women Say No to War campaign which includes a petition and the Iraqi women's tour. The next phase of this work is for Mother's Day-we're asking people to go to Washington DC to camp out with us, write and read letters to Laura Bush. April 29 is the next big mobilization with unions, the women's movement, and more, against the war out in the streets. Elections are coming up-we're part of a new coalition called Voters for Peace-we will only vote for candidates who make a speedy exit from Iraq part of their platform.
The Iraqi women are saying that they didn't know that so many Americans were against the war… It's interesting that the US government won't listen to the Iraqi people, and even more interesting that the US won't listen to the US people! It is our responsibility to ensure democracy on our own leaders…
On Monday night Entisar and Aseel shared the Hammerstein Ballroom stage with Michael Stipe (REM), Devendra Banhart, Rufus Wainright, and other well-known musicians who spoke out against the war in Iraq between rock performances Entisar was photographed with the celebrities at a press conference before the show announcing the release of a new peace postage stamp. Susan Sarandon was one of the first speakers at the show, and she introduced Cindy Sheehan, who talked about the need to protect our civil liberties and rights to assemble here at home. She said that we don't need a separate area to demonstrate; the United States is our free speech zone! Cindy introduced Entisar and Aseel.
When Entisar started speaking, the whole room of over 3,000 people went silent. The audience listened intently to her every word, and to Aseel's translation from Arabic to English. Everyone cheered for her, and shouted “End the Occupation!” at the end of her talk. The concert was the book release event for two new books by the New Press: 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military (with a final chapter on non-military alternatives by CODEPINK's Rae Abileah), and Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, by Anthony Arnove. The concert was covered by over 125 news outlets, including the New York Times, which ran a story featuring Entisar's name on Wednesday. Click here to read the story in the NY Times.
Eman Ahmad Khamas came to CT for two days to help us for pre-event publicity for the march and rally on March 18. Here presence here before the rally helped mobilize and inspire many of the activists. We had her on three radio stations, in the local Newspaper (New Haven Register), and on 9 cities in CT by public access TV stations. We also had an informal dinner with key activists who took time out from their rather full time jobs of mobilizing for March 18 to attend and reflect. Her calm, dignified, and reflective demeaner and statements were just the kind of energy we needed to mobilize.
She also had excellent political analysis (e.g. on the direct connection between the occupation of/war on Iraq and the oppression and destruction of the Palestinian society). Many media outlets which could not attend her press conference promised to attend the actual rally on Saturday.
On Saturday we got 5 commercial TV stations, at least six radio stations, the Associated Press story (which went over the wires nationally and was published in a few newspapers), and several key local newspapers (Hartford Courant, New Haven Register, Waterbury Republican American, Yale Daily News). The rally had 1500 people (the largest for peace in CT in many years). Photos of the event are posted at http://qumsiyeh.org/march18 and all who attended are determined to not let Eman and all other Iraqis down.
Thus your bringing Eman to us will continue to have an impact on our activism for a long time to come as we will never forget this brave and honest women.
Entisar and Aseel munch on snacks that Lori sweetly throught to pack us for the plane trip.
Here's us with all our luggage, including CODEPINK store in a big duffel bag. We may not travel light, but we do fly often!
On Monday morning we said a tearful goodbye to Lori and Al Russell, who hosted us in Ft. Lauderdale for four days. Our South Florida experience was incredible—from high schools to medical college and other universities, to rallies and marches, to churches, to Haitan community center, Entisar covered a lot of ground! Lori and Hillary, co-coordinators of CODEPINK South Florida, did an incredible job organizing all these events.
We were so honored to have Dr. Ariabi and Rae as guests at our events this past weekend! Also our thanks to translator Aseel. It was an emotional roller coaster that served to increase (if that was possible) our committment to ending this war!
We were front page of the Sun Sentinel, with an additional article about Dr Ariabi inside, we had a very good article in yesterday's Palm Beach Post, and Please check out this article in the Miami Herald with extra photos online!
And special thanks to my dear friend and Co-organizer, Lori Russell and her husband for arranging Dr. Ariabi's speaking events and hosting the three women in their home for four days!
Eman speaks to a hushed crowd at the Women's Convergence.
The Women's Feeder March takes off for the rally.
Eman speaks to 20,000 in Waterfront Park.
Eman, wearing a sign that says "No Occupation" in English & Arabic (Oregonian photo).
20,000 in Portland speak out for peace (Oregonian photo).
Eman telling the story of three mothers whose sons have been missing for 3 years.
Eman Ahmed Khamas spent 2 days here in Portland, Oregon, and our town is much richer for her presence here.
She had an extremely hectic schedule filled with interviews, radio segments, press conferences and rallies. The rest of us were completely exhausted after 2 days of this, but Eman has been working like this for weeks, and she is still going strong. When I told her, “I don't know how you can do this for as long as you have,” she replied, “well, you have the harder job.” As if!
On Sunday afternoon, CODEPINK Portland had put together a “Women's Convergence and Feeder March” of several different local women's groups. In addition to CODEPINK Portland, Women in Black, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Oregon NOW, and Radical Cheerleaders were represented. All the 125+ women (and supportive men) were so honored to have Eman say a few words to our gathering. She told us that it gave her hope to see that there are people in the U.S. who care enough to speak out against the occupation. When she started speaking a palpable, solemn silence descended on the crowd and everyone gathered closer to hear her words. There wasn't a dry eye in the square.
After marching the mile to Waterfront Park, and picking up many more people along the way, Eman spoke on the main stage at the rally to a crowd of 20,000 people. Her words were quoted in many news stories about the rally the next day: “This is the worst human rights violation that any country can do.” (Media listings below)
Everywhere we went all weekend dozens of people would walk up to Eman and thank her for being here, for having the strength to share these stories, and promise to keep working to stop this horrible occupation. She can barely go two steps without getting stopped by someone, or pulled aside for an interview, or asked the same questions again about the “civil war” and “the insurgents,” or simply thanked one more time for taking the risks to come to our country. She has an amazing, and admirable ability to keep answering the same questions over and over, and yet stick to her message: “Leave Iraq to the Iraqis.”
It was a remarkable honor and privilege to spend these days with such a powerful, courageous woman. Eman has to not only experience these horrors, but also describe them to others. How has she not come to hate everyone in the U.S. for allowing this violence against her people? But she has not, she is still loving and compassionate and begins new friendships every day. She says I look exactly like her 10- year old niece, and says she will call me “Asma” and I should call her “Auntie.” I had to deliver her to Corvallis, Oregon for her next event on Tuesday, and leaving her at the church there was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I wanted to turn the car around, and continue with her on her travels. I thought more than once about what my partner would say if I told him I wouldn't be home for a couple of weeks, and could he cover the rent?
As I turned onto the I-5 entrance ramp heading north, I couldn't tell my tears from the rain on my windshield. Even though the rally and all the other events in Portland were over, I hadn't done enough yet. I needed to get home and get back to work, even harder, to make my government get OUT of Iraq, and let the people handle their own country. So that I can go to Baghdad to see Eman again, and her daughters, and Asma, as soon as possible. So that when she says “Thank you” to me, I feel like I deserve her thanks. Whatever we are each doing to stop this brutal occupation of an innocent country, we need to find a way to do a little bit more. Eman is counting on us.
Entisar rides in a pink convertible at the rally and march in Ft. Lauderdale on the weekend of the third anniversary of the occupation of Iraq.
Aseel speaks out against occupation and interprets for Entisar.
Lori and Rae shout, “La liekt tilal! End the occupation!”
Entisar leading the march.
South Florida CODEPINK co-organizer Hillary.
Entisar and Aseel were interviewed by many newspapers and TV stations.
In the evening we were all exhausted and ordered burgers at a local restaurant. Because the car was so full of protesting props, like the cardboard coffins and poster boards, I had to pile all the burgers on my lap.
Entisar enjoyed a burger and we watched the evening news to see Entisar on many news stations.
Here are photos from our excursion to the beach this morning. We watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. Entisar said that the photo of the back of her head looking out at the sea makes her think of hope, a brighter future.
Tonight Entisar spoke at St. Maurice Catholic Church in Ft. Lauderdale. This emotional and intimate talk and the question and answer dialogue that followed were excellent. Below is a basic transcript of what Entisar said at this talk.
At the end of the event we screened the CODEPINK DVD. Everyone was interested to learn more about getting involved with CODEPINKand taking action in an effective way to stop the war. CODEPINK South Florida brought refreshments served on pink dishes.
One man in attendance at this event was Mo Dagstani, who heard about our events in Tampa after they happened and was so disappointed that he didn't get to hear Entisar speak in his town, that he got in his car and drove South 4 hours to hear her speak in Ft. Lauderdale. He is staying in South Florida for the weekend and attending the peace rallies with us. He is an Iraqi from Baghdad and was very grateful to meet and talk with Entisar. Pictured here are Mo, Entisar, and Aseel.
EXCERPT FROM ENTISAR'S TALK:
Peace upon you. I came from Baghdad, the heart of the action. The reason I came to the US was because I watched on the TV what President Bush was telling the American people about democracy, freedom, security, and the help that is being given to the Iraqi people, I couldn't believe the lies. So I decided to take the risk to come to the US and share with you what's really going on. A lot of newspapers ask me what my political affiliation is and I tell them that I don't have a political affiliation. I am a human being only.
I work at Yamook Hospital. The number of dead and wounded is increasing every day. I walk into the emergency room and I see these beautiful human beings that G-d has created with so much effort, and it took only one shot-women, children, husbands, sons, dead, limbs gone, part of body blown up. I stand there and I feel helpless. In the operation room there isn't anesthesia, sterilizing agents, feeding tubes for babies. Most of the top specialist physicians have left the country because they can be killed. When we have injuries that need a specialist, we have to send the injured person in an ambulance to another hospital. There is a huge risk that while en route to the other hospital, the person will either be shot at or the journey will take too long because of road blocks and the person will die. In my hospital there are two refrigerators for dead bodies and this is not enough anymore. The only contribution that the American troops have made to our hospital is to give us another refrigerator for bodies.
In Baghdad alone we receive about 1,600 dead people a month. For each dead person, there are 10 injured people from the same incident, making 16,000 injured a month. For each of these patients, their chances of survival are very slim because we don't have the equipment to help them or the sterilizing agents to keep out infection.
No one expected that the American invasion would be this bad. We watch TV and we see the American lifestyle-we admire it, we see how in the court system each person gets a representative, the rights of humans are well protected, that's what we wished for.
Just in my own neighborhood, in the middle of the night several Hummers came into the street, shot at the houses, kicked the door in, took the men, put black bags on their heads, and left, leaving screaming women in the doorways. The women were left in a miserable condition with destroyed houses. They were in tears, having no idea why their husbands and sons were taken, especially since in one case the son had just been married the day before.
I visited some of the cities that were under heavy air attacks from US troops, like Haditha and Al-Quaem. The hospitals, schools, courthouse, and even the children's playgrounds were all bombed. It looks like a bad earthquake has hit the area-everything is destroyed. In Haditha Hospital all the areas where medicine were kept were blown up. We tried to talk to the doctors but they had been beaten up and refused to talk. Only one doctor dared talk with us. After interviewing him we asked him why he was beat up, and he said that he was accused of treating the resistance. He told them that he was a doctor and treated whoever was in need, they didn't listen.
President Bush claims that he wants to liberate Iraqi women. I can tell you from my experience as a woman, and I lived under the awful Saddam regime, which I must stress was horrible, and I am not a political person, I am a doctor and a mother, but I want to tell you what I experienced. Everyone has the right to an education and to college. I have five kids. Every time I had a baby, I had by law a year of paid maternity leave with my child-that was my right as a woman and a mother. I could wear anything I wanted, covered or not as I chose. I had my own pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose. I could take my kids anywhere anytime-shopping, to the institute to learn German, French, English, etc. Two months after the invasion, I had to close down my pharmacy because I saw a person shot in front of my building. I can't take my family anywhere. By 5 pm we have to be home because the militias are everywhere and it is not safe. We only get 1 hour of electricity a day. Random arrests are all over the place with no excuse and no one claiming responsibility-there is no way to find out where people go. In the prisons women are being exposed to rape and assault. One woman I spoke to had been raped so many times that she asked the local religious leader for permission to kill herself because she feels violated every time she walks in the streets. The rape and the assault and the psychological war is terrible. Soldiers go into a house and demand to know where the man is, when the women say they don't know, the soldiers torture the women with dogs. In our society it is very bad for women to be arrested. Men will turn themselves in just to free their women.
Please don't believe the new election-it's all phony. This new government doesn't have the right to govern anything. It's the ambassador that has control.
Women were encouraged to work and go out. Now we have a fundamentalist government that extremely limits women's rights.
There are death squads today in Iraq that come in the middle of the night and round up 60-70 men at night. There are no records of where they are. Months later they are found tortured. When you look at the way these bodies have been treated and abused, you would never believe a human being could do this. It looks like they have drilled into the bodies. They have iron burn marks. One eye witness who left the prison said that there was a 5 kilo weight on a man's private parts for 3 years. This is the democracy that Bush is speaking of today. And he says that this is going to be a model for the Middle East.
The democracy among the Iraqis today is defined as the killing, kidnapping, random arrests, theft, opening the borders to all kinds of militias, bombing, unclean water, no electricity.
When I came on the plane from DC to Alabama, at the airport I got a special treatment because of my Iraqi passport. I had sadness on my face and Rae said, please don't be sad… I said, no, I think each country should have strict security. I wish that we had such security, and that the US troops did not invade with all their weapons, leaving all our borders open.
These are some stories about what is going on in Iraq today-there are so many more to tell. It's so nice that since I've been in this country I can sleep at night, but while I sleep I wake up in the middle of the night screaming or crying because of the effects of the war zone I've been living in. It's also very nice to wake up in the morning to the birds singing and the trees and the wind. I miss that. We've been waking up to the sound of gun shots and airplanes and sirens.
Q and A
What do you want to happen now?
The longer the American troops stay, the more they're going to promote violence. I see no hope unless the Americans leave.
For what reason do you feel that this violence has been perpetrated on your country?
Before the invasion, there was a government and the government was protecting the borders, there was security, there were police. Now anyone that wants to harm the US or the Iraqis comes to harm us.
The longer the US army stays, the more the resistance will intensify.
The world knows that Bush created lies to go to Iraq and take over the oil. Everyone in the middle east said that they knew that the interest the US has in Iraq is the oil, but people were so desperate to unseat Saddam, that they welcomed the US with the idea that things would get better.
Are there local women's organizations there that promote women's rights?
There aren't any specific organizations. If you need medicine, you can go to the hospital, but it's rare that they have anything. As an alternative, you can buy medicine for high prices on the black market. There is a neighborhood treatment center for light injuries.
What about nutrition, food?
Food is rare as well. We depend on some humanitarian organizations from Spain and Germany.
Where do you get the strength to survive, physically and spiritually?
Every human being is given this power from G-d. Iraq today has turned into hell. Anyone who goes there will be burned. Since I've been in the US I feel hope-people connecting with me and believing in this cause. My only hope is for people to speak out and get the troops out.
Aseel is wearing a pink motorcycle helmet that was donated to CODEPINK after Entisar's speaking event in St. Petersburg!
Entisar's profile, taken by Al Russell.
South Florida CODEPINK co-organizer Hillary poses with a peace sign.
Rally in West Palm Beach
South Florida peace and justice groups organized a march and rally in West Palm Beach, a very affluent community not known for anti-war demonstrations, to highlight the continued violence in Iraq on the third anniversary of the occupation. The rally was held in the median green between two very busy streets. In the heat of midday, the Raging Grannies gathered to sing and cheer, and Entisar spoke about life under occupation, not as a politician, but as a doctor and as a mother. Entisar was interviewed by several newspapers and other media outlets. During the march, some people on the streets cheered and others jeered; it was clear how divided the area was over the issue of a troop withdrawal. One police officer got on the loud speaker of his police car and shouted “The occupation! The terror!” and later said Shokran, thank you, to Entisar and Aseel for being present at the rally. I have never met such a supportive cop. He told us later that as an Arab he feels responsible for educating the police force about Islam, and protecting the rights of Arabs in these times of heightened discrimination and bigotry.
The demonstration also featured coffins covered in American flags, graves reading “How many more?” and a variety of pickets and signs.
I wanted to send you an update about Dr. Rashad's visit to St. Louis, MO. We wound up having a very busy visit, which is good. Many people heard her speak and I think they listened with their hearts. She is very good and reaches people in ways we could not reach them.
Dr. Rashad arrived in St. Louis Saturday evening, which gave us a few hours to get to know one another before we retired for the night. She has been staying with my husband, Mark Fredericks, and myself, while she is here. The first evening, my co-coordinator, Laural was also here visiting.
On Sunday morning, Dr. Rashad attended St. Louis Religious Society of Friends Meeting (Quakers) with me. After the meeting, she showed a video presentation about the war during potluck. She was well received by the Quakers who are one of the organizations donating funds to bring her to St. Louis.
Immediately after Meeting, we went to events for a peace march and rally commemorating the 3rd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. First, we went to the History Museum, where Dr. Rashad said some words of inspiration to a group of women who had gathered to march to the main rally. We also collected some food brought by the marchers which was donated for the people whose hunger was caused by the money that has been spent on the war. (There were marches made up of different groups of people gathered in many locations, all heading toward the rally.) After cheering on the women, Dr. Rashad and I went to the location of the main rally so we could unload our car and watch the marchers come in.
The rally was located at the World's Fair Pavilion in Forest Park in St. Louis City. Around 2pm, we began to see the women marchers, then the children and family marchers, then the student marchers, then the faith group marchers, then the artists marchers all come pouring into the rally site. By the time everybody gathered, there were over 900 people. Given that it was a very cold day and an outdoor venue, that was a good crowd.
There were many talks given that day. The focus of the day was the cost of the war. We looked at the jobs that were lost, the homelessness, the effects on the soldiers, and so on. Dr. Rashad was the feature speaker for the event. The crowd found her to be very moving.
Today, we were up very early. Dr. Rashad was supposed to have an interview with a radio station in New York, but when they called, they thought they were going to interview someone else. They did not know about her. We got going a little late and I had to have them call my cell phone. Unfortunately, they also called a little late and so we had to go into the building with the radio station where Dr. Rashad was doing the live interview by the time they called. My cell phone cut off when we entered the building and would not work again. I think it was just the building. They only had her for a couple of minutes.
We had a live radio interview at 7am central time on radio station WGNU 920 am. It went very well. The host, Lizz Brown, was very moved by Dr. Rashad, and she wanted to get copies of the pictures for herself. She looked at them during breaks and it really moved her. She is a very dynamic woman and well connected. A good show to have had her on!
The show lasted for an hour. Immediately after the show, we went to a class in Edwardsville, IL. This is a class on Modern Middle Eastern History taught by Steve Tamari at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. It was a good class to have attended. There was a real mix of students in the class, including some soldiers. One of the soldiers asked a couple of challenging questions, including whether Dr. Rashad's point of view could be trusted when she was brought here by such a "fringe left wing group like Code Pink". : ) She handled the young man well. A few of us had coffee after the class. That soldier came along. Dr. Rashad put on her video and he watched it carefully. He did not speak about it, but he will think about it now. (Steve, the professor, told me things that make me think the soldier has PTSD. So sad.)
After coffee with the students, we went to the main Mosque in St. Louis. Dr. Rashad met with the Amam for a time. This was good because the Muslim community here has made a conscious decision not to get involved in politics, including the peace movement. (I won't go into what happened with them not showing up for her talk, etc.) After she did her afternoon prayers, we showed her video to the school children (I was a little worried about that. Many were so small). Even the adults had tears in their eyes. They did say things like, "we have to limit where we give our charity", etc., when I spoke to them after. I encouraged them to get involved in the peace movement. I told Dr. Rashad I would let her know if they choose to do so. We will continue to reach out to them, anyway.
After the Mosque, we went to Plowsharing. I told her about Fair Trade organizations that help women (and men). We copied information on the organizations and I encouraged her to follow up on this. I hoped she might talk to Global Exchange, for example.
Next, we went to a class in Theology and Peace at Saint Louis University. The class was taught by Andrew Whimmer. This is the University where I teach. The students had already been learning a fair amount about Iraq and so Dr. Rashad was able to show them the video and Power Point without so much lecture. It was clear to me that the students enjoyed her presentation very much. They asked the same question we heard so many times, "If we get out, will there be a civil war?" She answered it with the same clarity she always did, by explaining that the Iraqi people got along and there is really no difference between Sunni and Shiite, that is misperception. But the American people are causing a civil war by opening the borders and arming the militia. I think the students understood.
Finally, we rushed off to our last business of the day. That was a reception offered to the people from organizations that paid to bring Dr. Rashad here. We had threats of very serious weather starting at the same time our reception was starting and so very few people came. But those who came were very glad they did so. We saw the video and the Power Point and Dr. Rashad spoke until after 8pm.
I think Dr. Rashad has reached many people while she was here. She changed some minds and she renewed the spirits of many in the peace community. We enjoyed her visit very, very much.
Copies of her radio interview will soon be available at http://www.lizzbrown.com/.
A Brazilian band at the little Haitian restaurant.
VeYeYo Haitian Meeting
Friday night we were invited to a meeting at VeYeYo, a Haitian organization in Miami. VeYeYo means “we're watching you,” and translates to keeping an eye on the occupiers. When we walked in we felt instantly that we were among friends. Lavarice, a great organizer and host of a radio program, had interviewed Entisar on the radio the night before, and introduced her to the feisty crowd. Entisar spoke with more passion and conviction than I can relate here. She spoke with strong statements in Arabic, Aseel interpreted her words into English, and the English was then translated into French! At the end of the talk, Entisar and Aseel taught everyone how to say END THE OCCUPATION in Arabic, which sounds like La Li Ekt Tilal! Everyone got really into it.
Then people started passing me little scraps of paper and pencils so that I could write down in English this phrase and they could remember it. There was a grandmother sitting in the front row who recorded the whole thing on her tape recorder. Her grandson was sleeping in her lap. It was a magnificent meeting, showing that people across continents, across hemispheres, can unite and join hands and rise up against occupation everywhere.
After the meeting at VeYeYo, we went to South Beach for a night on the town We went to a great little Haitian restaurant and bar that was entirely covered with murals. There was a Brazilian band playing and when they heard that Entisar was there, they played a Brazilian song that was a prayer for the children affected by war and conflict.
We had hoped to meet Father Jean Juste at the meeting, but due to his recent chemotherapy he had to stay home to rest. We are sending our love and prayers to him.
The group eats lunch in the cafeteria and discusses military recruitment on campus.
Entisar poses for a photo with Mark, the international relations teacher at Terra Vella.
Entisar is interviewed by the school newspaper.
On Friday Morning, Lori Russell, the Broward County CODEPINK Coordinator who has organized the wonderful schedule of events for Entisar in the Ft. Lauderdale area, brought us to Terra Vella High School for a morning presentation that had been organized by Chelsea, a high school CODEPINKer.
When we arrived there were already five classes of students in the media center/library. Entisar asked for a volunteer student to stand up and go through a normal day with us—what time she wakes up, what she does in the morning, what she eats, how long it takes to get to school, what she does at school, what she does after school, where she works, how late she gets home, etc.
Then Entisar said what a usual day for an Iraqi kid, such as her daughter in high school, would look like, including waking up worried and afraid in the dark because there is no electricity, trying to find school books without light, the journey to school that used to take 15 minutes and now takes 2 hours because of road blocks and altered routes, lack of classes available to medical students because professors have fled the country or been killed, and curfew. Entisar talked about what life is like under the occupation of Iraq, what life was like before, and how she thinks her country can rebuild and return to safety—contingent on the US troops leaving.
After the bell rang, more students poured into the library, and this pattern continued all day. We had thought that we would speak to the big group in the morning and maybe to one or two more classes, but we ended up staying in the school for the whole day, speaking to four classes each period. Many students had us sign permission slips so they could stay for two or three periods. At the start of each class Aseel showed a sketch of Iraq that she drew on the chalk board and explained where Baghdad was and a bit of context about Iraq. Entisar spoke and then they spent the majority of the time answering questions.
The students were mesmerized and we all agreed that they asked the best questions of anyone we've spoken with thus far. They wanted to know about the threat of a civil war, Saddam, the role of the media, the hospitals. Many times Entisar was asked the question, “Who is bombing? Is it really the US doing this?” There was also the question about whether the violence will get worse when the US leaves. To this, Entisar explained how the US troops are not even able to defend themselves, needing the Iraqi military and police to escort them. How, Entisar asked, are the US troops doing anything to protect the civilians? She then explaned how not only are the troops not protecting the Iraqi people, but they continue to abuse and kill innocent people.
One very conservative teacher started the day by asking Entisar a barrage of very pointed questions emphasizing the US motives for going into Iraq and the reason for staying. He teaches international relations and he brought all his students. At the end of the day he wanted a CODEPINK for Peace shirt and had great follow-up questions. Many students signed up to continue getting information about Entisar's life and work and to find out more about creating peace. Students stayed after school to see video and photo footage of the situation in Iraq. By the end of the day, Entisar had spoken to over 1,000 students at Terra Vella.
Nadje: I am not living inside Iraq. I'm living in London; my family lives in Baghdad. I am an academic, writer and researcher working on two projects right now.
I think that people can't understand the current situation in Iraq in 2003 if they don't understand the historical context, so I've been interviewing over 200 Iraqis from many different political perspectives and experiences both before and after the occupation.
The second project I've been involved with is to document the role of women in Iraq over the course of the past decades, so that people can better understand the trajectory of women's rights in Iraq, and understand their societal role in both an economic and a political context.
Entisar and Eman
I work in a hospital in Baghdad. I want to talk specifically about the bad situation of health in Iraq. The sanctions continued for 15 years in Iraq and made the conditions for Iraqis miserable. The occupation made it worse. We didn't see any kind of development in the medical healthcare system. We suffer from shortage of medicines and emergency supplies, there is no sterilization of the operation rooms and anesthesia is unavailable. There was money given to repair the hospitals and medical system. We suggested that we use this money to buy things that we need but they refused and bought furniture and flowers instead. I am the director of the pharmacy dept in Yarmook hospital, so I refused to sit on a new chair while there were no sterile operating rooms. Many of the Iraqi hospitals were bombed and destroyed in Baghdad and Al-Quaim, and in Fallujah. Many of the doctors in these hospitals were either killed or beaten very badly or arrested by the American troops. Many ambulances were attacked in these areas as well. Many of the diseases that were under control under the regime of Saddam have now returned to haunt the population, especially the children, because there are no vaccines or immunizations. Specifically Hepatitis, meningitis, caused by environmental contamination (water, sewage, etc.) are raging where they used to be under control. Death due to cancer increased because treatment programs stopped and medicines were not available. Many Iraqi doctors, especially specialists, have either been assassinated or have left Iraq, many have been kidnapped or threatened. More than 1,000 have left, and more than 200 kidnapped. 80% of the Iraqi civilians injured are dead. Iraq is now the 36th country in the death of children who die under 5 years of age, before the occupation, Iraq was the 80th country with this statistic. One last thing about women, pregnant women suffer of malnutrition. Women in labor prefer to give birth in the home because of the risk of being shot en route to the hospital.
Eman: I am a writer and translator. For the last 3 years I have documented human rights violations in Iraq.
There was a news piece about what happened yesterday [on International Women's Day], a picture with three or four lines in the Washington Post that said women protested war on this day. And Bush said that women in Burma, North Korea, and Iran are the focus of his work, supposedly meaning that women in the rest of the world are happy. I bring this up because it is true that there was a demonstration in Washington and that there were demonstrations elsewhere in the world, and it is true that Bush said that about women in those three countries, but this is not the complete truth about the way things are. This kind of incomplete truth is the way that the issues of Iraq are covered, unfortunately. This is what Americans know about Iraq. They hear of a rosy picture that doesn't exist.
Again, tens of thousands of detainees are in jail for the last 3-4 years. We don't know the exact number, We hear about terrible stories of torture to death. We have a very big problem of the missing-thousands of Iraqis have disappeared and when we go to the Iraqi authorities to ask about them, we are left with no answer. 100,000 Iraqis have been killed, over 50 percent of them women and children. Whether it be by sectarian violence, thugs, guns, on the street, bombings, sickness, or any number of other daily dangers, death is everywhere in Iraq. It is the thing of the streets in Baghdad.
Another big problem is the continuing military operations. Bush said they ended on April 1 2003, but this is not true. All cities were heavily bombed, buried under the rubble. When a city is bombed, all life stops. Bridges, hospitals, homes, public buildings are destroyed. Needless to say the people of Iraq live in very bad conditions. The problem is very big. The last attack was called Steel Cut; in the operation, 8,400 families left the area of the bombing. And you can imagine how big the problem is. Now in America we are talking about civil war, but you must understand that right now we live in fear in Iraq, We are worried, all the time-we havelived in fear about ourselves and our families for years. You can be killed, disappear, or be arrested at any time. We live just to survive our day.
I think the occupation is 100% responsible for what is happening in Iraq and that the Bush administration should be held responsible for the destruction.
I am a civil engineer, a blogger and mother of three boys. I used to live in Iraq, but now I live in Amman, Jordan. I have started to write about the situation in Iraq, so have changed from a civil engineer and mother to a blogger.
The goal of our visit to the United States is to tell the people the real story because the media is not telling this story.
At the beginning it was fun to blog, but now it is a big responsibility, a kind of documentation for everything that is happening in Iraq. Blogging is something that I didn't design, but has become a regular part of my life. I write from my personal experience.
After 6 months of the war, a man came with a gun in my face and kidnapped my son. For four days my son was in the Interior Ministry with his hands tied. They were the worst four days of my life: I thought that he was killed, thrown somewhere in the garbage. This is the situation for Iraqi women. We are holding pictures of our sons and wondering if they are being killed, thrown in the trash. I went to the US Troops and they said they couldn't help. The police said the same. Who cares about the Iraqi people? The answer we always hear from your government is "We are sorry but it is not my business." Who cares about the Iraqis? The government is sitting in the Green zone, the forces are sitting in their tanks, and the people are being killed.
After four days somebody helped my son. A kind person in the jail gave him a cell phone to contact his parents. He called us and told us how much money we would have to pay to get him released. We paid the money and fled to Jordan. This is the familial story of thousands of Iraqis, who face the panic that is Iraq. This is our new government, our great liberation?
In terms of reconstruction, the healthcare, education, and infrastructure systems are all in shambles. Year after year it is the same-nothing has been done to help the Iraqi people. If the occupation tells you that they are in Iraq to help the people, where are the facts on the ground? This is what you have to ask your administration-for facts on the ground! I will never ask about policy first. If you really care about Iraq, you must bring witnesses from Iraq, real innocent and independent families to tell the story of Iraq. Your media is telling you everything is going well, but this is not true, and you must hear the truth. This is your responsibility as Americans. I want them to know that you, the American people, are not partners in these crimes with your administration.
People are asking about civil war, but from the beginning of the fall of Baghdad, from the beginning of U.S. involvement there, Iraq was divided in Sunni and Shi'a areas by the occupiers. Bremmer divided Iraq into triangles and squares and regions. This is a very nice story, helping Iraqis with their sectarian identities, but now Iraq is torn, destroyed after 3 years. The principles of this new constitution are based on sectarian policies-before the occupation began, we never asked what someone's background was. The occupation created the sectarian story. Before, we were all neighbors, sisters, and now we are separated. How could I trust you to stay for another three years in our country? What is the proof that we will do something better?
I have been working with a woman who supports the occupation. I know that some people in Iraq support the occupation, but they do not see the full picture. The occupiers put Iraq in the hands of the militias. They destroyed our cities and now Iraq is full of militias. The key to the end of this violence, the key of Iraq, is in the hands of Iraqis.
I want you to hold this responsibility to do something to help the Iraqi people because you are mothers and we are mothers. We accept the risk of coming to the US because there is no option, no alternative, we cannot hide in our homes with locked doors, we must speak out and say that this is wrong. You can understand our suffering. our people are dying. Maybe something will happen, maybe somebody will help, it's risky to come here, but I accept the risk because I have no other options. After three years of destroying Iraq, we Iraqis have to say no. Everything you have created here is violence. It's chaos. It's wrong, and you must stop.
What is the solution? We need a national army and government, not a sectarian country. Have Iraqis build a national unified government with no sectarian army and no sectarian divisions. This is the only solution.
Q: I am a mother with two sons in their 20s. Part of the administration's rhetoric is that they are saving the Iraqi women. Can you speak to the issue of the condition of Iraqi women before the "great American liberation" and the condition of Iraqi women today?
Nadje: One of the lies about why the US went to war was that they would be liberating women. I've heard this several times: now I women can go to University and school! people don't know that under Saddam women could actually could go to school. Obviously there were human rights violations, but Iraq had one of the highest rates of employment for women in the region.
In 1978 Iraq issued a law that all adults-male and female-had to undertake a literacy program and go to school. You saw Iraqi women in all professions. Since 1978 there was a very progressive family law in Iraq that made it very difficult for Iraqi men to marry a second wife. The man needed consensus from a judge and a good reason to marry again. Divorce was very difficult for men to obtain without women's input, and women had a right to obtain divorce and custody over their children.
One of the first things the Provisional Authority tried to push through was article 137, which actually makes women's rights go backwards, making it easy for a man to marry a second wife and obtain a divorce, while making it very difficult for a woman to do so. In the constitution, there is a provision that says everyone is equal before the law -- but that's not exactly the full story either. Islamic law is not a book of set policies; rather it's open to interpretation. It's now the main source of law, and it's interpreted primarily by men. If interpreted by progressive men, no problem - but in the hands of a Taliban-like man, then it's very dangerous. There's nothing to protect women from very conservative religious interpretations of Islamic law.
The current constitution is increasing sectarianism-why? Because now every Iraqi can use specific laws relevant to their particular sect. Women in the north might have different legislation than those living in the south, there is no united law. If you just look at the legal rights, women have lost big time.
[Maxine Waters and Faiza get up to leave.]
Maxine: We need to look at whatever we can do to make women's lives better in Iraq.
Faiza: (Pointing to Lynn Woolsey and everyone in the room) You need to promise me that there will be change on the ground. You have to promise me.
Lynn Woolsey: I'd like to give you the pledge and the proof that these women are not alone in this country or the House. First of all, CODEPINK and Peace Action exist; also, the majority of Americans know we're doing the wrong thing in Iraq. Here in the House I was the first voice to say: turn this around, Mr. President, put together a plan to bring the troops home - and that was may more than a year ago. Maxine Waters put together the Out Of Iraq caucus, which has 78 members. We are dedicated to leaving Iraq ASAP. I speak out against the war every time we're in session; I have five minutes on the floor every time we convene to speak, and I always use it to talk about the war. People say "why are you wasting your time? No one is listening," but people are listening all over the country. Besides, it's my 5 minutes and nobody can tell me what to do with it, and I choose to talk about what's happening in Iraq and why we must leave. When this is over, we must do something about how we handle conflict in this world. Are we doing enough? No, we're not. But things are changing. Representative John Murtha, the top democrat on the Defense Appropriations Committee, has come out against the war and proposed a resolution to bring our troops home. That's a big step, when anti-war policy jumps from coming from me to coming from a moderate democrat. My counterpart Mike Thompson put together legislation yesterday that says that no later than September, we're out of Iraq. (It's about time!) I'm not saying we're doing enough here in Congress, but the media isn't helping anything either. I've been there, in the Green Zone, I knew it was some other world. But even from that bubble, I knew that the commanders on the ground fully knew they would be in Iraq for a long time. What have we done?
We held an informal hearing here in Congress. We had wonderful witnesses to the hearing on the exit strategy, 20 members of congress. And it was bipartisan; Walter Jones joined us. Talk about brave people! Walter came because he knew that it was important for legitimacy's sake to call the independent hearing bipartisan. Things are changing. We saw this kind of shift later as well, when there was an amendment to the spending bill on the floor. The Republican-controlled Congress let me talk on the floor thinking that they had an opportunity to embarrass the Democrats by allowing me to speak about it. But no one complained and no one looked embarrassed.. The amendment says, "Tell me how we'll bring the troops home," and my own colleague, a Democrat, asked me not to bring it to a vote because it would be embarrassing. But then, one Republican spoke in support of the amendment. 5 voted for it, and 122 Democrats voted for it. No, the amendment didn't pass, but it also didn't embarrass anyone. Members of Congress knew they could speak out against the war from that moment on. But that's all just the backdrop to what really needs to start happening. Talking is not enough - we've got to make it really happen
Congress is way behind the public, in knowing this war is a mistake, so the public has to remind Congress that we represent you, and so we need to bring the troops home now.
It's also a matter of constituency. The radicals in this room have radicals representing them, like me. You have to go to the places that don't have radicals or radical representatives, and change Congress from the ground up. Do outreach all over the country.
Q: What do you expect will be the breakdown in terms of how much money will be appropriated for the war?
Lynn: We don't have a sense, but I think that more people will vote against it, but it will pass. Members are so afraid of being labeled anti-troop and unpatriotic. They forget to hear the people who are saying that it's not unpatriotic to dissent when the government is taking away your civil rights and civil liberties. There's so much fear of losing the job that they don't do what is in my opinion the right thing. With the media as it is, you can get labeled so quickly - and once the label is there, it's very hard to rip off.
Q: What's happening on the ground amongst women to overcome the sectarian divisions? Have the troops been oppressive in your actions to overcoming these divisions?
Nadje: It's not just women who are working to overcome these divisions. Many Iraqi religious men get on TV and call on people to be wise and not be driven by anger. They say that we are collectively Iraqis and that these divisions are a conspiracy against the Iraqi people. The situation in Iraq is extremely difficult, but still women are working, like my group Women's World, who are trying to help the people. Eman and Entisar go to the refugee camps to help with whatever they have. There are basically too many Iraqi women's organizations. The only thing they have in common are the word "democracy'. These women's organizations were created here in the US 6 months before the invasion-these women by the 2nd day of the invasion they were in the palace talking about women's liberation. I was naïve and went to talk with them but they never contacted me again. I then realized that they are a part of the political agenda of the occupation, working on the constitution as well. For example, last year there was a very big conference in Jordan where 100 women were invited and 500k was spent, airplanes, hotel, etc. I asked one of the woman who was part of this conference what they discussed and she said that we did not say anything and were instead given lectures and workshops on federalism and the new constitution. These women are being brainwashed.
Lynn: One of the things we're going to have is another Out of Iraq hearing, and we will definitely ask one of you [the Iraqi women] to be on the panels. Your voices and faces mean everything, and the panel will have press.
“Harvey” the mock human whose chest simulates different heart palpitations for cardiology students.
Dr. Ariabi listens to Harvey's heartbeat.
Discovering a Sumerian prescription tablet.
Today we left Tampa at sunrise and drove south through pine trees, the Everglades, and emerging into palm trees and a city of highways. At midday, Entisar spoke at Nova University to a class of over 120 medical students. The class is also broadcast by satellite, and students in neighboring counties and also in Ponce, Puerto Rico, took part in the presentation. Please check back here soon for the transcribed talk.
After the talk Entisar received a tour of the university, including the pharmacy classes, the physical therapy practice room, and “Harvey” the mock human whose chest simulates different heart palpitations for cardiology students. Harvey is a pricey guy, but he does have an on and off button! Entisar also got to see the labs and the University's museum of medical artifacts, where she and Aseel discovered a prescription tablet written in Sumeria. This was an absolutely wonderful afternoon.
Press conference with Entisar and Ahmed Bedier, director of C.A.I.R. (Center for Arab Islamic Relations) in Tampa.
Q and A session.
Entisar speaking at the College of Public Health.
The audience at the College of Public Health.
Entisar and Ahmed Bedier, director of C.A.I.R. (Center for Arab Islamic Relations) in Tampa.
John Arnaldi and his wife
Entisar's Trip to Tampa
Wednesday was a very full day, starting with a press conference at the Federal Building in the morning. Aseel, an Iraqi-American, interpreter, architect, activist extraordinaire, joined us from DC and will be traveling with us through the rest of the Florida tour. The press conference was well-attended, including CBS and Fox news. The press had the burning questions—will there be a civil war and was life better under Saddam.
John Arnaldi did an excellent job organizing the day, from the press conference, to two separate meetings with aides from the offices of Senator Martinez (R) and Senator Nelson (D). Both offices spent a lot of time listening to Entisar. An interesting side note is that the rep from Martinez's office closed by saying that she knows that Martinez understands the suffering the Iraqi people underwent under Saddam because Martinez grew up in Cuba under Fidel Castro. Conversely, the representative for Nelson's office said at the end of the meeting that she understands what the Iraqi people went through under sanctions because her family is Cuban and she grew up there.
In the afternoon Entisar was interviewed by the Sun Sentinel newspaper for a story that will be printed on Sunday. We ate lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant and dinner at an Indian restaurant and we felt very well fed by the end of the day.
In the evening, Entisar spoke at the College of Public Health to a packed audience eager to hear about her experiences.
More about the questions that were asked during these events and other substantive details coming soon.
Letter from John Arnaldi:
Dear friends: Rae and Entisar and Aseel:
Great thanks to each of you for your courageous journeys!
You inspire us and touch our hearts.
Yesterday's CODEPINK events in Tampa were a great success. I have received thanks from many people on behalf of each of you and the work you are doing.
MJ and I agree that spending yesterday with all of you was a precious gift to us that we will treasure through the remaining years of our lives.
May God bless each of you and bring peace to us all,
Entisar's talk, organized by the Quaker community and local peace and justice groups.
Conversation at a cafe.
Homecooked meal of couscoous and homegrown vegetables with supporters.
Florida speaks out!
Event in St. Petersburg We arrived in St. Petersburg--after crossing a very long bridge over the bay and sitting in a lot of traffic—just in time for a homecooked meal of couscoous and homegrown vegetables at a lovely home. Then we were off to the community center where this evening's event was held. Activists from the Quaker community and local peace and justice groups organized an excellent event tonight. The room was filled with easily over 80 people. Entisar showed photos with a projector depicting the situation in Baghdad and she was assisted in her talk by a wonderful translator named Husan. Husan is originally from Palestine and has traveled in Iraq, so he filled in some useful information about the geography of the area and really emphasized certain points about Entisar's lecture that he knew would need to sink in for Americans. For example, when asked during the Q and A session about the issue of rape during war, Entisar told the story of a female detainee who was raped in jail. After she was released, she felt that everywhere she went she was violated, and she wished to die. She asked religious advisors about getting permission to kill herself, since this is strictly forbidden by Muslim ethics. Husan emphasized this point about suicide and addressed the too-common American misconception that Muslims condone, even wish for, suicide as a viable tactic for power, terrorism, etc.
After the talk there were so many questions that the group decided to move to a café nearby to continue the conversation. On the way, the caravan of cars stopped at the pier to see the Gulf of Mexico. Entisar said that the hot, humid air and the palm trees reminded her of Iraq in the summertime. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to be so far away from family and a country that is constantly in a state of unrest.
At the café the conversation and the espressos continued for quite a while. There was a man there who has made clear address label stickers with the number of dead soldiers. There was a woman, Samm, who is running for Congress against the local Republican warmonger, and she filmed everything. After the event, she gave me the most amazing pink motorcycle helmet. Now I just need a pink Vespa! Everyone wanted to talk late into the night, wanted to offer us a meal or a place to stay, wanted to apologize for the wrongdoings of the American government and military, wanted to buy us a piece of banana bread or a slice of cake, wanted to ask us to attend another event.... Finally we were on the road to the place where we would stay the night.
What can we do to help? In the car I asked Entisar what she felt about being asked over and over again what the American people should/can do to help. She told me she felt two things: one, the American people should raise their voices to be heard by Congress and the people making the decisions so that the occupation can end, and two, that she sees now that the American people are very sympathetic to her and to the Iraqi people and want to help. I told her that to me it is very frustrating that people ask this question. Entisar is saying repeatedly in response to the question about what will happen with the troops leave that the Iraqi people can best govern themselves, rebuild their society, and decide what they need. And then people ask this question about how to help. Well, I think it is our responsibility as Americans to know best how to change our own country's behavior. I think this is a question that comes with a feeling of powerlessness. But we are not powerless and we must make our voices heard and demand an end to the occupation of Iraq as the majority of the citizens. When people ask about how they can help, I think about a big strong man strangling a helpless man and asking him at the same time how he can help him. Until we stop being part of the problem (occupying Iraq, continuing our lives status quo, using oil and other resources at unreasonable rates, etc.), we cannot begin to be a part of the solution. We continue to slice wounds and then when we see the blood, we rush to find enough bandages...
I also see how this question is important because it implies a certain humility and honesty—rather than deciding what's best to do, people are reaching out to Entisar, an Iraqi woman, and asking her what she wants us to do to be in solidarity with her and assist her work and vision of peace
When I asked Entisar more about this question, she told me this story: There was a hospital where there were many sick children, some with cancer and other severe ailments. The hospital had no adequate medicines or provisions, especially because it was not guarded by anyone, and so because Iraq's borders are open and there is no real police or army force protecting the people, there are thieves that steal all the time. Looters had come into this hospital and taken most of the provisions for healthcare. The US soldiers came to this hospital and said to the doctors that they should take the patients out of the hospital because it was not safe and there were no supplies. But then where would the patients go? The doctor turned to the wall and started banging his head against the wall. Entisar said that she sees that some Americans feel like this doctor: entirely helpless, hopeless. Entisar said that life needs hope; without hope, there is no life.
Dr. Entisar met with the doctors and staff of the Tallahassee medical clinic.
Touring the pharmacy.
Outside the medical clinic.
Dr. Entisar met with the doctors and staff of the Tallahassee medical clinic this morning. She shared with them the devastating stories of the deteriorating healthcare system in Iraq. Pharmacist Susan McLeod, who worked at the clinic for many years, gave Entisar a tour of the clinic's prescription filling area. Entisar asked whether staff of the clinic were able to give medicines to their friends, and Susan replied that no, there is a strict process for getting medicine, requiring a prescription from a doctor and medical records. Then Entisar talked about how sometimes the men guarding the hospitals come to the doctors and demand prescriptions for ointments and medications. Because these men are like the police, the doctors feel obliged to write the prescriptions. Then the pharmacists must fill them. Entisar said that this a big problem because then the medicines are given away to people who do not need them and may be selling them outside the hospital.
Lydia and Susan explained how this medical clinic is for people who don't have insurance and would otherwise have no where to go. Susan talked about how over 30% of the people in the area have no health insurance, and how thousands of people come to this small facility that used to be a school to get treatments. Entisar asked about whether there were x-rays and other specialized testing on site, and Susan said that people have to go elsewhere for those services, but that there is a network of doctors who volunteer their time to help with such services.
After the visit to the clinic, we said our goodbyes and began our journey south to the Tampa area. The drive was mostly along a highway lined with tall pines and greenery. The sky changed from pouring rain to sunshine and puffy clouds, and it felt as if we came out of a long tunnel and emerged somewhere brighter.
Entisar reads a statement at the Equal Rights Ammendment Press Conference at the Capitol.
Entisar tells Congressman Curtis Richardson what's really going on in Baghdad.
Entisar with Florida's Congressman Curtis Richardson.
Entisar speaking with Dr. Schlenoff, Director of Muslim Studies at Florida State University.
CODEPINKers and other supporters join us for a meal.
Lydia, Entisar and Rae outside the Florida State University.
Lydia being interviewd by the local newspaper.
Rae, Entisar and Lydia in front of the old Capitol.
Entisar, Rae and Lydia outside the College of Pharmacy, FL.
Lydia created a peace ribbon made of cloth streamers tied to rope. Each streamer has the name of a US soldier or an Iraqi civilian who has died in the war.
Lydia, David, and Entisar outside Lydia's home with their two dogs, Charlie and Chuck, and the pink peace sign Lydia made out of x-mas lights.
SUNDAY, March 12
On Sunday we went to Panama City where Entisar spoke at the Capstone House to a mixed crowd of people, some of whom were eager to hear what she had to say, and some of whom were solely interested in their own opinions. This event was a risk—Entisar spoke in an area where many people are very supportive of the US government's occupation of Iraq. She spoke fearlessly, with great patience and dignity, and with brilliant eloquence, even through the lens of a young translator who had never met her before the talk began. Brenda, the event coordinator, did an excellent job reaching out to the city and pulling together an event in less than a week. She had an Indian lunch and after lunch the event began in the packed meeting hall. Two news stations filmed the talk. Though at first the environment was very tense, and the organization hosting the event was very concerned that the talk might be “political,” by the end of the afternoon they were inviting CODEPINK back for future events.
Without a moment to spare in Panama City, spring breaker destination and land of beautiful white sand beaches, we zoomed off to Tallahassee with Lydia and David. Lydia coordinates the Tallahassee CODEPINK group and her enthusiasm, experience, innovation, and sincerity never fail to astound me. She and her partner David drove all the way from Tallahassee to meet us in Panama City, and then all the way back to the city just in time for dinner and a speaking event at the Tallahassee Progressive Center. The dinner was primarily for the major donors who so generously supported Entisar's tour through the South. After dinner, Entisar spoke at the Florida NOW meeting. For this meeting, Lydia had made pink name tags and a big pink donation box. Indeed, all of the events that Lydia organized over these two days in Tallahassee had so much thoughtfulness and hard work. These little details (and the big ones) made everyone feel good and grateful to be a part of the events.
MONDAY, March 13
At 10:00 am Entisar spoke in Dr. Schlenoff's Arabic class at Florida State University. Dr. Schlenoff is the Director of Muslim studies at the University.
At 12:30 we attended a press conference for the Equal Rights Amendment at the Capitol. Lydia made the connection between the promise of women's rights in the new Iraqi constitution and the apparent disregard for women at home, as evident by the exclusion of the ERA thusfar. Entisar spoke about how this promise of women's rights has been false.
We met with Florida's Congressman Curtis Richardson and Entisar spoke about the situation in Baghdad. We asked what he could do to help. He said he felt rather powerless as a minority Democrat.
We went to a Middle Eastern restaurant for lunch and we all shared Turkish coffee.
In the afternoon Entisar spoke at Florida A&M Univeristy to a very intergenerational crowd that had great questions about the status of women's rights, the availability of medical supplies, and of course what will happen in Iraq if the troops leave. Entisar showed her slideshow with graphic images of what war really looks like. Students stayed afterwards to talk about military recruitment on campus and what they could do to get more involved in the peace movement.
In the evening, Entisar did a one hour interview with the St. Petersburg Times over the phone with an interpreter. She said that the journalist was very attentive to her narrative, wanting to know all the details of her daily life in Baghdad. We look forward to seeing the story in St. Pete on Wednesday. We spent some time at Lydia's house, where Lydia showed us her peace ribbon.
At night, we returned to Florida State University to speak to the Amnesty International group. The students had excellent questions and the lively discussion didn't end until almost 9 pm. We returned home to see ourselves on two news stations, footage from FAMU and the ERA press conference. Then we heard about the news of the street violence in Sadr City. It is impossible to describe this feeling of desperation and sadness that Entisar tries to explain.
At every event we go to, someone always stands up and tearfully apologizes to Entisar for the US occupation. While it will take a lot more than an apology to make things right again, this important first step is very untraditional for America—The US did not apologize for the brutal murder of Native Americans, for the enslavement of Africans, for racism and discrimination, for building a colonial empire, for creating treaties that leave countries in grave poverty, for dropping bombs.... So there is something very moving to see these apologies happen. Always Entisar replies that she knows that there is a difference between the American people and our government, and that she has experienced so much kindness here during her travels. But, she says, while the Iraqi people used to revere America, desiring to travel and study here, since the occupation there is a growing hatred of Americans. She promises always to return to Iraq and share her stories of the people she has met here.
By Jodie Evans, CODEPINK Coofounder Thousands of us stood together at the Santa Monica Beach, north of the pier next to the Arlington West Memorial to represent the world uniting to say NO to war. Artist John Quigley created this powerful aerial image for us on a canvas so big it took a helicopter to capture it all; each time we have done this it has made the front page of the paper!
Please circulate this beautiful image around the world, something to touch hearts, and an experience full of magic and community. (Click on images for enlarged view).
Excerpt from Trish O'Kane's Speech in Montgomery, Alabama
Today is a great day for women of the world and for all who believe in justice. Today, in Chile, Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, will become that country's first female president. This is a victory for all who love justice because on September 11, 1973, we installed the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and that dictatorship tortured Michelle Bachelet's father to death. Thirty-three years later, the dictator is under house arrest, and the daughter of the victim is the democratically-elected leader of that nation. Bachelet has already named her cabinet--half her ministers are women and half are men. She is pushing legislation that will give all working women free childcare and set a quota of 40% for all political candidates--this means that 40% of all politicians in Chile will be women.
I teach journalism at Loyola University in New Orleans and I speak of Chile today, because it is a story of hope. I heard this story yesterday on the radio as I drove out of New Orleans. It is a drive that I've made many weekends since I returned in January, and yet it is a drive that still makes me feel sick. The mile upon mile of empty rotting homes and communities that line the I-10 is not something one can, or should, get used to. And so I was filled with joy as I heard this news, and if you live in New Orleans today, you need a little hope and joy.
In the midst of the muck, people are rebuilding. Some destroyed neighborhoods are now dotted with white trailers. Those who have the resources to rebuild are working very hard. Many do not have the resources, and are scattered across the nation, exiles in their own country. Some of my colleagues at work live in trailers now. Six months after the storm, in the richest nation on earth, some still do not have electricity. But they are at Loyola every day, doing the best they can. I am surrounded by fiercely proud and resilient people.
But this stoic, muscular, roll-up--your--sleeves spirit cannot change one terrible truth: hurricane season begins in 82 days. The army corps says the levees will be ready. The independent commission of scientists and civil engineers says that they probably will not be, and that, in fact, in its haste, the army corps is making the same mistakes that led to the levee failures during Katrina.
What we are living in New Orleans today is the result of our choices as a nation. We have chosen to destroy the infrastructure of other countries rather than to maintain and rebuild our own. We have allowed torture to become our official foreign policy. We have abdicated our responsibility to take care of our land and natural resources, and handed it over to oil companies and their cronies in power. We have put the wolves in charge of the henhouse.
So I look South towards Chile today because I see that there are other choices. If Chileans can kick the war criminals out of their White House and put them under house arrest--so can we. If Chileans can elect a leader with vision who puts her people and the children first--so can we. We can, and we must. We must because Monday morning I once again will stand in front of 50 young faces, the faces of my 18, 19 and 20-year-old students, and in their eyes I see one question:
--Do we have a future?
Over 25,000 college students returned to New Orleans in January. Many were born and raised on the Gulf Coast. I'd like to end with their words. This was an assignment called "163 Words for President Bush." When Bush gave his State of the Union address, he dedicated exactly 163 words of a 6,000 word speech to the Gulf Coast, and many students were very angry about this. So Loyola gave this assignment: write to the President. Tell him in exactly 163 words how you feel. These letters are from freshman, or should I say freshwomen.
Departing Today Entisar and I begin our travels to the South. When we go through the security checkpoint at the airport, the woman checking ID takes one look at Entisar's Iraqi passport and puts a big neon X on her ticket, singling her out for a special search. I calmly asked why Entisar is being asked to do this. The woman looks up with a blank face and says that this is just a routine, “random” search. Random? I want to shake this woman, to mouth off to her about the absurdity of homeland security which doesn't protect us from terrorist attacks that we knew were coming or hurricanes that we knew would break the levies. Instead I walk through the x-ray machine area; I firmly tell the guard to get a female assist, and I wait on the other side of the glass as Entisar is patted down and her bags are searched.
Usually I am overtly loud about my disagreement with the Bush administration when I am in the process of getting to the boarding gate at the airport. Now, I am silent, wanting only to feel the comfort of being safely on the plane, knowing that to miss this flight would make our visit to Alabama meaningless. Entisar is through the checkpoint and we are once again walking arm in arm to the terminal. I tell Entisar that I am frustrated by this security process, that it is ineffective, and that I am ashamed that she was singled out. She says that security is not such a bad idea, that it may be necessary, but that it doesn't make sense that security should be so strict here, while the US soldiers can come into her country without a passport or a visa or an x-ray, can bring all their tanks and weapons in without asking anyone. Entisar has a way of cutting through everything peripheral and getting to the point. She takes the frustration and the challenges and makes them at once so painfully real with such frank honesty that everything around us here in America becomes an illusion.
In Flight On the airplane we discuss women's reproductive rights since Entisar will be speaking at a National Organization for Women (NOW) rally and because my ears are popped in I talk loud so that when I get up the retired couple sitting behind us ask me what the NOW position is on “partial birth” abortion. I explain the misnomer in the terminology and talk about the circumstances in which second trimester abortion would occur, and I think that these people must be very conservative. But a little more conversation reveals that they are ardently anti-war, but afraid of an immediate exit strategy. By the end of the conversation, the woman, who tells us that she is a nurse and a healthcare instructor, is eager to hear more of Entisar's story and takes numerous flyers so that she can tell her family in other parts of the country about the women's tour.
Montgomery, Alabama We land in Birmingham, AL where we are met by Reverend Jack Zylman and Alabama NOW president Kim Adams. We load our cumbersome luggage into one car and ourselves into another. We go to the Montgomery NOW meeting at the Montgomery library. This is only the second meeting of the new Montgomery NOW chapter, and yet it draws about 50 people! There are door prizes, spoken word about sexual assault, an African cane dance, a full lunch catered with food donated by local businesses, and compelling speeches. Entisar is the key speaker and her words are translated by Dr. Hussein Latif. Here are some highlights of what Entisar talked about:
The situation for women in Iraq has severely worsened since the occupation. The abuse of women occurs in three areas: sexual abuse (example: female detainees are violated. One former detainee told Entisar that all she wants is to die by suicide, even though she knows that this is forbidden by Muslim law. When she walks in the streets, she feels as if everyone has violated her.); physical abuse (example: soldiers searching for men in private houses take women and taunt/torture them with violent dogs); psychological abuse (example: shooting children in front of their mothers). This is the situation of Iraqi women under the occupation of the US military.
Here are some words from the question and answer time: Q: Was there anything the US soldiers did that was good? A: Yes, they brought a new refrigerator to keep dead bodies in the hospital
Q: Has the US killed more people than Saddam? A: Saddam was a dictator who practiced his own atrocities like other dictators in the region. Now there is no government, no safety, no army, and so there are more random deaths. Saddam targeted those who were against him; now everyone is being killed.
Q: Why would American soldiers shoot children? A: I don't know. Ask the soldiers.
Q: How should the US leave Iraq? A: The US should announce their intent to leave and then leave gradually, over several months (not years). There should be an international peacekeeping group not composed of American or coalition troops.
Q: How have women's rights changed? A: Now there are rules that women cannot go certain places, such as colleges, without being covered. The old law under Saddam around polygamy stated that a man must have his wife's permission before marrying a second wife The new law states that a man does not need his wife's permission.
After the meeting we drive to the Alabama state capitol, a tall Southern white building with long columns and an even longer staircase leading up to the entrance. About 75-80 people gather on the capitol steps, a commendable showing for Montgomery NOW's first major event and for Alabama in general. Sam Joi, Berkeley CODEPINK coordinator, joins us at the rally with her big CODEPINK truck! Women at the International Women's Day Speak Out talked about harassment, immigration, women prisoners, fetal homicide legislation, hurricane Katrina, racism, sexual assault, domestic violence, mother's and children's rights, equal marriage, and more Entisar is the first speaker.
Entisar looks out over the people and tall stone staircase and the wide avenue, the trees lining the streets, the modern government offices, the shiny cars, the blue sky and puffy white clouds, and her voice cracks and she asks why it is that we have all that we could want and are free to dream and live in this beautiful city, while her beautiful city, Baghdad, has been destroyed, totally crushed, the rivers polluted, the buildings bombed. The word that comes to mind for me is superimposition. In my mind the white capitol building become a canvas on which to project the images of hospitals turned into rubble, roofs caved in on bedrooms, shattered glass and mangled metal, putting these photos of destruction I have seen over and over during this past week on top of this clean and perfect place. Superimposing occupation on the occupier. America is a super imposition in Iraq. It is time for the reality of Iraq to be imposed on us.
Entisar Mohammad Ariabi spoke tearfully in her native tongue to a crowd of about 50 people gathered on the steps of the Alabama Capitol on Saturday. A moment later, the physician's words were translated into English.
"Thank you, Mr. Bush. You have done a lot to the Iraqi people," Hussein Latif of Birmingham said. "Why don't you leave now, so we can live in peace?"
Ariabi's visit to Montgomery was the highlight of a rally the Montgomery chapter of the National Organization for Women sponsored to celebrate International Women's Day. Brought to the United States by Code Pink, a national women's anti-war organization, Ariabi is one of several Iraqi women who travel and speak about life in her war-torn country.
She spoke of bombings in her home city that destroyed hospitals, pregnant women with no medical care and children born with congenital defects. Latif translated to a hushed crowd that each time Ariabi tells her five children goodbye, the family prays it is not for the last time.
Then they pray that if they do die, they do so before they are taken hostage and tortured, he said.
"This is part of what it is like in my country, and this is a gift from your Mr. Bush," Ariabi said through Latif.
The topic of the Iraq war was just one of many at the two-hour long rally that also touched on women's issues such as harassment of immigrant women, racism, domestic violence, sexual assault and equal marriage rights.
Cheryl Sabel, acting president of Montgomery NOW, discussed a proposed bill by Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, that would make abortion illegal except when the mother's life is in jeopardy.
Sabel called the bill an "open attack" on women and said legalized abortion is a right that should not be taken away.
"Anti-choice forces are not 'pro-life,'" Sabel said. "Without access to safe and legal abortion, women die."
Sabel also condemned a House bill that would include a fetus as a person when it comes to criminal homicide and assault. She argued that it would give rights to a potential life while taking rights away from an existing one.
She also said the law would be a backdoor way for lawmakers to get abortion banned.
"Do not be fooled," Sabel told the crowd. "To have a law that defines a fetus as a person in one case and not in another is patently absurd."
Attendees of the rally praised all of the women who spoke.
"It was very informative," said Katherine Story of Birmingham. "I learned a lot."
Tripp Holman, also of Birmingham, agreed.
"I thought it was great," Holman said. "It was good to hear their stories, but sad that they had them to tell."
By Todd Smyth Brief Report on Dr. Entisar's Talk at Adams Mosque in Northern Virginia:
We've turned Iraq into a slaughterhouse.Each week they are overwhelmed by hundreds of severely wounded women and children and they have run out of capacity for the many orphans created everyday. Diseases like polio have returned. Birth defects from depleted uranium are widespread. There is little clean water. They are living in a sewer. The divisions between Shiites and Sunnis is exaggerated. The civil war is being manufactured.
The reason most of the US soldiers still think there is a link between Iraq and 9/11 is because they were led to believe this, and they were let loose in Iraq to take revenge for 9/11.This has led to the random and abusive treatment of Iraqis, which in turn has led to the overwhelming resistance. The US is completely distrusted and for the most part hated, and are only making the situation worse by also attracting the Jihadists.
The Iraqis know Bush has said "we fight them in Iraq so we don't have to fight them in America," and we've turned their country into hell on earth.
Just as we announced some days ago, the Federation of Cuban Women (FCW) summed itself to the Call of women for peace, which you lead. We have also conveyed the call to all the women's organizations with which we have relations.
In Cuba this year, we had a one-week celebration in commemoration of International Women's Day from the 1st to the 8th of March. Our organization drafted a message which denounces terrorism, and the imperial wars waged in any part of the world; recalls the special sensitivity of our people concerning this issue because it has been victim of aggressions perpetrated by successive governments of the U.S. for more than four decades. It also explicitly mentions our solidarity with the Call of women for peace.
This message of the Federation of Cuban Women was read amidst the groups of the organization at the grassroots. We also realized activities at the 169 municipalities of the country and have already gathered more than 300, 000 signatures that adhere to the Call, in representation of the more than 4 million members of the organization.
We should have much more signatures because the activities organized in the 14 provinces of Cuba are still today taking place. Then tomorrow, we will make a statement in the national rally which will take place at the Anti-imperialist Tribune “Jose Marti”, located in Havana, facing the US Interest Section of the Government of the United States.
Prominent women scientists, artists, parliament members, Olympic and world championship medal winners, farmers, workers, students, housewives and leaders wrote down their names under the slogan “Cuban women against war and terrorism”.
We have elaborated an album comprised of pages of signatures collected and a video, which depict some images of those moments that took place in different parts of the country. We will soon send you both documents and the total amount of signatures. They will serve as a testimony of the joint effort in which the woman of Cuba, join hands with the women of the United States and worldwide, to firmly pronounce ourselves against the imperial policy of the Bush Administration, with the cry of NO to war and NO to terrorism.
Photos By Jo Freeman, www.JoFreeman.com Photos from the Women Say No To War Rally at the Iraqi Embassy & March to the White House to deliver the Women's Call for Peace and more than 100,000 signatures.
CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin addressing the rally.
Marching to the White House
Peace Puppets from Baltimore, Maryland (b. Fort Benning, Georgia, protesting the School of the Americas) Thank you Lynn Robinson, Cindy Scheldorf and all the puppetistas!
Women Say NO to War banners!
Iraqi delgates addressing the rally.
CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin and Gold Star Mother Elaine Johnson delivering the women's Call and more than 100,000 signatures to the White House.
Iraqi delegates with Elaine Johnson, Iraq Vet Eli Painted Crow and CODEPINK co-founders Gael Murphy, Jodie Evans & Medea Benjamin.
Yesterday my sister Cindy Sheehan was arrested outside of the U.S. mission to the United Nations. A contingent of women which included Cindy, CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, Missy Beattie a GSFP member whose Nephew Chase Comley was killed in Iraq and eight Iraqi women were attempting to deliver the Women Say no to War petition to the U.S. mission. This visit was pre approved by the mission. As the women arrived one of New York's finest cited a change of plans from “higher up” and moved in to arrest them. Four of the women, Cindy, Medea, Missy and CODEPINK member Patti Ackerman were handled very roughly during their arrest. The women linked arms when it became apparent they were to be arrested. For this they were physically abused and charged with resisting arrest.
What will it take for the majority of you who don't support the occupation of Iraq or the Bush regime to rise up? Polls tell us that 59% of you believe the occupation is wrong and we are being lied to by Bush. I do not see 160 million of you out in the streets. Again, what will it take?I will tell you what it took to get me off of my ass. It took my sweet beautiful nephew Casey's blood spilling in Sadr City Baghdad. It took watching my sister and family suffer a pain I don't think I can ever explain well enough but know it is a pain I would not even wish on the Bush family. I feel an indefensible guilt because of my apathy. I live daily thinking maybe Casey and 2300 other kids would still be alive if I had been in the streets prior to March 19 2003. Our civil rights are slowly being taken from us.
The Senate voted 89-10 to renew the Patriot Act. It still must pass the house. After hearing of the Dubai port deal and learning of the illegal wire tapping of Peace activists it is very apparent to me that the Patriot Act is used more to curtail the actions of U.S. citizens than to protect us from Terrorists. Patriot Act II will further increase the powers of the Bush regime and further diminish our rights.
So when will you wake up and rise up?
Will it be when you are arrested for trying to deliver a petition to a Government entity that your tax dollar pays?
Will it be when you are arrested for wearing a shirt a government official finds offensive?
Will it be when your e-mails and phone conversations are monitored by the NSA?
Will it be when your Childs brains are blown out in a foreign country?
Tell me please what it will take?
I was having this conversation with a dear friend of mine. Someone on our side. But a person comfortable in life and as yet untouched by the last 5 years. When I asked her to speak out, call her congressman, newspaper, etc. She said to me “who would listen?” my answer to her, no one if you don't do anything.
I can't stress enough to you. At some point your life is going to be impacted by this administration of evil and greed. I implore you, I beg you, don't wait until it is too late. The time is now to take our country back. The time is now to make our elected official do our will.
Non Violent Civil Disobedience is a time tested and proven tool to effect change.
To quote Ghandi:
You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.
We must as Rep. Maxine Waters puts it “put street heat” on congress. It is time for us to as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it “ cast our whole vote”.
You must now be willing to do as much as you can to reclaim our country. Can you make daily phone calls to your Senators and Congressmen? I think you can. Can you get out one hour a week in front of the homes of your Congressional reps demanding they do our will?
I think you can. Will you dig your heals in and stand your ground when they will not listen? I think you should.
It is time to go Ghandi on them……will you?
Proud Auntie of Casey Sheehan KIA Iraq 04/04/04 Gold Star Families for Peace www.gsfp.org Please visit our website for ways to get active
Photos By Jo Freeman, www.JoFreeman.com Photos from the Women Say No To War Public Forum and Music event at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. Attended by Gold Star Moms Cindy Sheehan and Elaine Johnson, Anas Shallal, Eman Khamas, Nadje Al-Ali, Faiza Al-Araji, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright and others… Musical Guests: In Process, Holly Near and Emma's Revolution.
Public forum and discussion with Women Say NO to War supporters.
2,300 Dead, Not One More!
Holly Near singing.
Iraqi delegates talking about the devastating impact of the war on Iraq.
Iraqi delegates participating in the musical event.
Honoring the memory of US bombing victims in Iraq.
I'm Joan Wile, founder/director of Grandmothers Against the War, and one of the Granny Jailbirds 18. I was so moved by the Iraqi women's talk yesterday at the community church that as soon as I got home I wrote the following letter and sent it to a wide list of people. Some have written me back already and indicated they've circulated it much further. You might be interested in reading it. Here it is:
I had an incredible experience today, and I wanted to share it with all my friends who I know are concerned about the situation in Iraq.
I attended an event sponsored by CODEPINK at which four Iraqi women currently living in Iraq spoke to us about conditions there.
Even though so many of us have been trying in various ways to end this awful war -- our vigils, protests, letters, petitions, jailings and so on -- after hearing the women speak one was imbued with a greater determination than ever to try and end this monstrous occupation.
One woman, quite beautiful, a pharmacist in the biggest hospital in Iraq, talked about the lack of medicines -- an extreme shortage of anesthesia and other critically needed medications. She spoke of the lack of sterilizing equipment so that when they perform operations many patients die afterwards from infections gotten in the operating rooms. We learned of women going into labor at night who have no means of getting to the hospital because of curfews and banning of ambulances after dark and the fact that so many such women and their unborn and just-born babies die as a result.
Another woman spoke in obvious agony of the terrible conditions -- the fact of having electricity only for an hour or two a day, the fact of not being able to send their kids to school for fear they will be shot or bombed, and so many other terrible hardships caused by the American occupation. She said that contrary to what our government and the Iraqi government says, the Americans there are DOING NOTHING to help the people. She said the people overwhelmingly want the Americans to leave. They all ask, "What the hell are they (the Americans) doing here?" They joke about the supposed democracy we are bringing. When another car bomb explodes and kills people, for instance, they say, "Another example of the democracy Bush is bringing us."
These women came here at great risk in order to try and get their vital message out to the American people. They will be taken to red states where they hope to make a dent in some of the prevailing misconceptions about the Iraq situation. One woman spoke of the fact they would probably not be able to return to Iraq for fear of being killed by their government. She will stay in Jordan in a camp until the situation hopefully changes in her homeland.
I asked her a daring question, but I really wanted her answer, as many others undoubtedly do. I asked if it was better under Hussein than now, and she said, YES. He was bad in some ways, she said, but the situation was much better under his dictatorship than now with the American occupation.
These women broke my heart. They begged for our help, for our getting Bush out of office, for our greater efforts at stopping the war.
I needed to describe this experience in the hope that we'll all, me certainly included, redouble our efforts to stop the terrible crime we are committing against these wonderful people....so intelligent, so noble, and so committed to helping save their country. And, to our shame by the way, they speak beautiful English.
Let's all try do more, if we possibly can. It's literally become a matter, I think, of saving the world from total breakdown.
By Rae Abileah, CODEPINK Local Group Coordinator Photos from the reception for the Iraqi & US women's delegation hosted by CODEPINK and Andy Shallal at Busboys & Poets in Washington D.C.This event was attended by Gold Star Moms Cindy Sheehan and Elaine Johnson, Whistleblower Ann Wright, and CODEPINK co-founders Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans and Gael Murphy. Invited guests included Ralph Nader and Congress members, John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Barbabra Lee, Cynthia McKinney, Hilda Solis, Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey among other special guests from the peace and justice community.
CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans addressing the participants. This event was incredibly moving as each of the Iraqi women gave a short, heartfelt introduction, demanding that every person in Iraq should be given the same opportunity to security, happiness, opportunity, that the women see everywhere here in America (Stay tuned for more on their talk).
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey with the Iraqi women delegates.
March 6, 2006: Photos from the Iraqi - US Delegation to the UN, New York City. See related news articles: [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ]
Cindy Sheehan with Iraqi Delegates at the Women Say NO to War press conference outside the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
Dr. Entisar Mohammad Ariabi, a pharmacist at the Yarmook Teaching Hospital in Baghdad, has documented the deteriorating health system. She became tearful when recalling the deaths and injuries she said she has witnessed daily. She estimated that 1,600 Iraqis are killed in Baghdad every month, with a greater number injured.
"Thanks for the liberation from Saddam" Hussein, Dr. Entisar Mohammad Ariabi said, addressing the Bush administration, "now please go out."
Eman Ahmad Khamas dons a pink tunic for the march. She is a human rights advocate who has documented abuses by the occupation forces. Iraqi women described daily killings and ambulance bombings as part of the escalating violence that keeps women in their homes.
Dr. Entisar Mohammad Ariabi is interviewed by Al-Jazeera news.
Cindy Sheehan with Iraqi Delegates at the Women Say NO to War press conference.
Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin hold up the Women Say NO to War Call, signed by more than 100,000 people worldwide, calling for the immediate end of the war in Iraq.
Women Say NO to War press conference outside the United Nations.
Women Say NO to War press conference outside the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
Cofounder Medea Benjamin with Iraqi women delegates. CODEPINKers marched from the UN to the US Mission to the UN.
Women Say NO to War demanding an immediate withdrawl of US troops from Iraq.
Ann Wright, a former U.S. Army colonel and U.S. diplomat, told the press that the U.S. Mission to the UN refused to send someone to meet with the women "whose lives and families have been shattered by this destructive and immoral war." The protesters refused to leave without delivering the petition. Pictured here are: Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, Rev. Patty Ackerman, and Missy Beattie.
As a result, both CODEPINK Cofounder Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan were arrested, cuffed and dragged away.
By Rae Abileah, CODEPINK Local Group Coordinator Sunday afternoon CODEPINK held a reception/ event at the Community Church, New York with the Iraqi delegation, Cindy Sheehan of Goldstar Families for Peace, Holly Near, Medea Benjamin and other special guests.
Sarah, event co-organizer, speaks about CODEPINK New York.
Holly Near sang and spoke at the reception and event.
Dr. Ariabi speaks about the devastating impact of the war on the health care system in Bagdad.
By Rae Abileah, CODEPINK Local Group Coordinator Photos from the first full day of this historic week of action with the Iraqi women delegates, starting in New York City.
Pictured here are the Iraqi women delegates with the crew from Deep Dish productions, who spent the afternoon interviewing the women individually and as a group dialogue.
Iraqi women delegates: Faiza, Entisar, and Eman. Meeting with the Entisar, Eman, and Faiza is something I cannot yet put into words. Their stories and discussions are raw and heart opening and full of a pain that is beyond pain and a hope that is beyond hope.
When CODEPINK Cofounder Medea Benjamin arrived in New York from San Francisco, we all went out for a late afternoon walk through Central Park to see the snow. We spent the evening talking, working and eating.
We started the day with another CODEPINK / Women Say No To War march through the streets. With our umbrellas, banners, Cheney and Rumsfeld masks and a fabulous mix of activists. We went the other direction this morning, towards the tents from the various countries. June, Woody and I hung the giant pink slip off the Anauco, one of the main hotels of the WSF, it faces everything, the tents and the Hilton, the other hub, it stayed up for about 6 hours. We watched as the team below snaked through the streets handing our flyers for our afternoon panel and stopping for photographs. We all arrived at the panel room just in time to begin.
Yanar Mohammad joined the panel for the first hour, we had just run into her in the streets. Yanar is the head of one of the women's groups in Iraq, she can only be there about 6 months of the year because her life is constantly threatened. It was about this time 2 years ago that we did a women's march with her in the streets of Baghdad with other women's groups. Many of the people left the panel really amazed at what they saw and heard. Cindy was of course her fabulous self and Medea wove the whole program together. The 2 hours went too quickly, with the audience wanting more we had to end and be rushed off to a meeting Medea set up with President Chavez and other anti-war activists. Tiffany had to run off in another direction and represent us at the meeting of the anti war groups and Jamie had to get 2 huge suitcases of banners, pink slips and t-shirts back to the hotel.
On the ride to the palace, Medea helped us craft an agenda for our meeting. It was interesting to watch her move the other members of the delegation off wanting to tell the stories of what is happening in their countries to what we needed Chavez to do to help boost and support the movement. We had an hour to walk around the palace and question his Chief of Staff before moving into his office for our time with him. The atmosphere at the palace was so comfortable. It is called a palace, but it feels more like a home. No one stopped me when I started wandering around the halls, no one even asked questions. At the end of one corridor I push open a door and found the counsel room I knew so well from "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". We were well supplied with coffee the entire time, Chavez had to leave the meeting for 5 minutes to take an international call and as he left he asked for more coffee for his guests.
He was a doll. Generous, open, passionate, excited, stimulated by the requests and happy to be planning with us. He was realistic but willing to stretch. I was fascinated to learn what a well educated environmentalist he is. The next project of his administration is one focused on the environment. When we asked him to take a stronger leadership position in the international anti-war movement, he was happy to do so, and said "this is not a lost cause, we can stop this war." Cindy Sheehan sitting next to him, shaking her head. He spoke candidly about the power of the American Empire, how he watches it blackmail countries and other presidents. He spoke of being alone in fights because others don't have the independence he does.
Day Three - Meeting Chavez By Medea Benjamun, CODEPINK Co-Founder
Today a group of us from Global Exchange and CODEPINK were among the delegates invited to hear Hugo Chavez speak at a stadium in Caracas. The stadium was filled with Venezuelan fans of the president and people from the World Social Forum.
On the stage with the president were activists and revolutionaries from around the world, including Aleida Guevara, the daughter of Che Guevara; Ricardo Alarcon, the head of the Cuban National Assembly; and leaders from Asia, Haiti and other parts of Latin America. The one person on the stage representing the United States was our dear Cindy Sheehan, who the president greeted warmly and with great respect.
Chavez talked for about two hours--which the people here say is one of his shorter speeches. Rumor has it he is a bit sick, but sick or not he certainly exudes charm and charisma. He even sang to us in a beautiful, robust voice.
Chavez talked about the people throughout the continent, especially the indigenous people, rising up against oppression. He recalled the efforts of Bolivar and others to unite Latin America, and said that challenge now is to unite Africa, Asia and Latin America to challenge US imperialism. He talked about his friend Evo Morales, and how they were going to help Bolivia by trading soy, meat and other products for Venezuelan oil, and about the literacy plan they are going to do, together with Cuba, to help eradicate illiteracy in Bolivia.
There were a lot of Cubans in the stands, waving both Cuban and Venezuelan flags. Many of the Cubans are either here for the Forum, or are here as health workers in Venezuela (there are 20,000 Cuban doctors working here!).
The most beautiful part of the speech for us was when he talked about the US people rising up. He called Cindy "Mrs. Hope" (in English, too), and he said that the people of Latin America had to work together WITH the people of the United States to end injustice, inequality, and to create a better world. He invited us to dream of a US government that called for peace in the world, a US government that worked with everyone else to end poverty, hunger, misery. He conjured up the image of the US people waking up, the great giant inside the US awakening. "What a tremendous positive impact we could have on the world", he said.
While he was speaking, a few of us got up and walked around with our beautiful bright pink banner that said: "Mujeres Dicen Fuera Bush" (Women Say Bush Must Go), and the crowd went wild in solidarity.
The only part of the speech I didn't really like is when he talked about the slogan Socialism or Death! That slogan has always seemed over the top for me…
In any case, it was a thrill to be in the arena with Chavez and all these wonderful people from Latin America working for a better world. We will certainly be going home with the infectious spirit of the people of this continent…
Fireworks at the WSF By Jodie Evans, CODEPINK Co-Founder
Walking home from dinner tonight, we were startled by fireworks celebrating a victory at the baseball game, the heart beat of the day seems so much nearer to you here...the sounds of life are ever present; the beating of the drums that never seem to end, the music always in the distance, the laughter in the streets, it makes the US feel so dulled....so subdued...so lacking in robustness.
Reports say that over 60,000 marched yesterday, demonstrating against War and Imperialism. Many of the very large delegations were from all over South America, hundreds of Cubans were at the front of the march with us, all in red with C's on their caps. So energetic and thrilled to be part of Another World is Possible, the theme for this WSF. The famous words at the end of Arundhati Roy's speech at the WSF a few years ago.
They estimate over 100,000 activists from around the world were participating in the over 800 programs listed for today. You could spend hours studying the program (in 4 languages) trying to figure out what you could attend. The issues range from Feminism, War and Peace, Human Rights, Environmental Justice, Culture, labor and workers rights and building a more just world without neoliberalism, capitalism and imperialsim.
Many of the people we have met from around South America and Africa are very curious to see so much participation from the US, seen as the problem, they are impressed with the passion and interest they find in the many groups from the US who have traveled here; Global Exchange, Jobs for Justice, Poor People's March, American Friends Service Committee and many others. I met friends of my son from Brown University as they ran between meetings.
What is the WSF? The grassroots alternative to the World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Davos by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. While the WSF is not intended to eliminate the street demonstrations that have confronted the WEF, it does provide an opportunity for grassroots activists to envision and build a new future which is an alternative to the global domination of US imperialism and corporate interests. The regional WSF in Caracas is one of three being held throughout the world. The others are being held in Pakistan and Mali. Gael Murphy, the other co-founder of CODEPINK is at the one in Mali.
We began today with a press conference on the affects of the Iraq War. The moderator was Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK. Cindy Sheehan, Fernando Suarez del Solar and Pablo Parades, fielded questions for almost 2 hours in a packed press room. Fernando and Pablo proudly wearing the new CODEPINK buttons Susan Adelman created, Pro Soldier, Pro Peace. (Check them out at the CODEPINK store) They were all excellent; taking hard questions and using them to educate the press here. This MSM relies on ours on MSM for their info about Iraq. By the end Cindy, Fernando and Pablo had the audience in tears.
As we walked to events and stood in the galleria, we ran into friends from Greece and El Salvador. While talking we noticed a fabulous ledge and began planning an action for tomorrow morning. The giant pink slip with BUSH LIED, FIRE HIM, should really delight this crowd. How wonderfully strange to be planning an unfurling of the pink slip without the usual concerns about security. We will use the attention of the unfurl to spread flyers for our Women Say No To War event on Saturday morning. We decided to create an event this afternoon as more and more women...and men, came up to us drawn by our visuals and wanting to know more. All those we have talked to want to know how to participate. So in the midst of all this we are creating flyers, press releases and preparing for an action in the morning.
CODEPINK is in the House, By Jodie Evans, CODEPINK Co-Founder
travel day was exhausting until we entered the starry sky outside the
airport. The air was sweet and the density of stars was magical....Cindy
Sheehan's sister Dede had her cheek pressed against the window drinking
it in as we began our 3 hour drive to the hotel. The main road was closed
at 9pm and it was now midnight. The only road to take snaked up and down
hills. We were all a little green when we arrived. But the views had been
breathtaking, or was that a rollercoaster ride?
The streets had been so quiet the night before that it was shocking to
wake to the bumper-to-bumper honking traffic below. A swarm of people
and machines in motion.
The hotel lobby was now the hub of activity, participants from every
country-meeting, sharing stories and trying to figure out what to do and
where to go. We crossed the street to the Parque Central and found ourselves
in a maze of levels, theaters, book stores, a community gathering place....quite
beautiful. On the top floor all the television stations are set up to
capture interviews of the participants. Cindy was dragged to all of them,
doing cameos, panels, and interviews. I was, as usual, dripping in pink,
which caused one of the women producers to ask questions and soon I was
on camera, talking about women to say no to war. Between questions as
I was being translated they would switch to Dede holding our fabulous
giant Women Say No to War
banner. The men helping her had ducked down not to be seen. One of our
decorated umbrellas garnished the corner of the banner. The station was
the Al Jazeera of Latin America, so it will go to every country. All of
that was before we have been in the country 8 hours.
Next we rushed to the head of the big inaugural march with Cindy. It
was easy to find the CODEPINK gals because
of the pink umbrellas, which also protected
us from the pounding rain in intervals. The last half hour of the march,
the womensaynotowar banner and the lead banner were side by side.
The march was refreshing. Tens of thousands of people from around the
world marching through the streets of Caracas and no mobs of police, what
police we did see were so friendly and helpful. Lots of laughter, music,
communities represented by their banners. It was a giant celebration.
The rally after was more music than speakers, very refreshing, the music
touching everyone's hearts and raising spirits, easing the ache in our
feet. Music was shared from many countries, but appreciated by all. Street
vendors prepared the most delicious food and water was free.
world. Oh I forgot--Medea rocked the masses when she was on the stage
with chants to stop Bush and her call for women to say no to war. We stood
behind her with Antoine's giant banner. What would we have done without
Antoine Bonsorte who created our fabulous banner and Maya our new intern
for creating all the visuals we wore, and carried.
In less than 24 hours, we have made many friends--already organized 5
new cities to do actions on March 8th and spread the word...we are already
out of the 2,000 flyers we brought. The call is popular, we don't give
the flyers out-women come asking for them.
“Another World is Possible” By Gael Murphy, CODEPINK Co-Founder
Bamako, Mali is one of 3 cities to host the 6th World Social Forum – an alternative to the neo-liberal economic policies that have been imposed on ordinary people and believed by many of us to be at the root of the injustice and violence we see in the world today (click here for more on the WSF charter) It is a space for civil societies to come together to share, discuss, debate and strategize alternatives to growing poverty, environmental destruction, war, militarism, among other realities millions face in today's world. It was decided that this year's forum would be polycentric, held in three different places during approximately the same period – Bamako, Caracas and Karachi.
I and my partner, Laurie, decided it was time for us to join this powerful gathering of people working to create a better world. It was also an opportunity to reach out to our sisters and allies in Africa, Europe and beyond about our “Women Say No To War” campaign. After 24-hours travel from the U.S., we landed in Bamako, made our way inside the airport, where we were warmly greeted by WSF volunteers, mostly recruits from the university. We found other participants waiting to go into town. Of particular note were the nearly dozen Burundians who had also brought as many large traditional drums (each weighing in excess of 60 pounds). They came not only as participants, but also as part of what was promised to be a fantastic cultural extravaganza during the forum. That night we encountered old friends and met new ones. The excitement and energy about the days to follow could be felt everywhere. Participants filled every hotel, guest house and dormitory. As is typical of the Forum, families offered to host attendees in their homes, to assure even wider participation.
But it is expensive to travel to Bamako which limited participation to between 15,000 and 17,000, half of the attendance (30-50,000) hoped for. However, Mali and neighboring countries took full advantage and traveled long distances by road to participate. The result was a preponderance of French and Bambana speakers and the difficult logistics needed for translation was a real drawback for the non-French speaking participants. I need to mention that they did have adequate translation for many of the sessions thanks to the wonderful folks from Babel and numerous multi-lingual spontaneous volunteers (Click here to find out more about Babel). Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world which made it a real challenge to provide adequate support for logistics, translation and infrastructure.
The next day after a somewhat chaotic registration we all gathered at the Place de l'Independence to march through Bamako with banners calling for everything from the liberation of Western Sahara from Moroccan colonial rule to food sovereignty to ending the war in Iraq to stopping violence against women. Two Tuareg men atop camels carried a banner calling for fair trade. A flatbed truck served as a stage for dancers from one of Bamako's many women's groups. It was an amazing sight to see such a collection of ordinary people from all classes, races and ethnic origin marching together in solidarity, representing all the various struggles, strategies and hopes for a better world. The city was strewn with banners announcing the Forum and few Malians, no matter how poor, were unaware of the planned event.
We ended the march after about an hour and half at one of Bamako's sports stadiums where the official opening was to take place. This was a cultural event rich with some of Africa's most prized contributions weaving traditional and modern. One of the organizers and founder of the Mali Social Forum, Madame Aminata Traore, had served as Minister of Culture and did an amazing job ensuring that Mali's ethnic beauty and diversity was a main thread of the conference starting with the opening ceremony. The spectacle brought together young, old, women, men, griots, dancers, singers, masks, traditional instruments and more in a celebration of human ingenuity, grace, beauty and tradition.
It was a time to encounter old friends and make contact with new ones. The energy was high and the positive hopes for the Forum were palpable. The sharing had already begun.
Fifteen to seventeen thousand people attended the Bamako WSF, representing some 40 countries in Africa, as well as Europe, Asia, and North, Central and South America. There was wide national coverage of the forum in Mali. When the conference ended, we traveled far into the countryside and found that most Malians we met who have access to radio or television had heard and appreciated the detailed reports about the proceedings. Not a likely scenario in the U.S. Their hope, similar to our own, is that the leadership hears our message that alternatives are not only possible, but critical. We want humane policies that benefit the ordinary person rather than always catering to the elite and wealthy minority.
More description to follow soon…
Women's universe and village
About the sessions
the women and men I met
what the SF means to Africans
challenges of an internet campaign in the global south
End the Iraq War: People Can Topple Pillars Huffington Post, NY - Mar 2, 2007 ... Amman between a US peace delegation and members of Iraq's Parliament, sheiks, and torture victims, that was organized by Global Exchange and CODEPINK . ...
Wednesday, July 12 Troops Home Fast San Francisco By Rae Abileah
Today was the final day of our weeklong fast outside of Senator
Dianne Feinstein's office in San Francisco. Our culminating
ceremony yesterday outside Feinstein's office went really well—we
had over 100 people stop into listen to speakers and music, and
of course the busy foot traffic during rush hour as well. Speakers
were great, including Iraq war veteran Eli Painted Crow, Sureya
Sayadi, Fred Jackson—a Vietnam-era vet who speaks like he is
lighting the world on fire, Raging Grannies, SF City Supervisor
Chris Daly, SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi, hip hop artists Galen
and A-1, musicians With Impulse, Aliza Hava, and Tommi and Dianna,
Jane Jackson, and more. We had a very diverse turn out—we did
a closing circle and each person did an intro and made a commitment
of what they were going to do to work for peace each week, which
ranged from ongoing fasting, to bringing activism to one young woman's
high school, to collecting more voters for peace signatures, to
learning to communicate with true non-violence.
Before the ceremony, at 3 pm a group of fasters, including Iraq
war veteran Eli Painted Crow, and Kurdish Iraqi activist Sureya
Sayadi, went to Feinstein's office to deliver over 1,300 Voters
for Peace pledge signatures, a letter inviting our senator to sign
onto the Troops Home Fast, a bouquet of flowers to “preemtively
thank the senator for listening to the majority of her constituents,
Americans, Iraqis, and the Iraqi government, and voting to bring
our troops home from Iraq,” and a satin banner that people
signed throughout the weeklong vigil with messages to Feinstein.
The security guard was very nice but said that her office would
not allow us to come up. We pleaded that they at least allow one
person to go up, and he made several calls up to her office but
we were denied every time. Eli called up and made a very calm and
heartfelt plea as an Iraq war vet to speak with someone. Ultimately
they took down her info and denied her request. Sureya got on the
phone and happened to have the contact of the aide that she and
the Iraqi women's delegation met with in DC and she again invited
them to either allow one person to go up, or to send someone down.
Meanwhile, Leslie from North Bay CODEPINK
also tried to get someone from the office to come down and meet
with us. The combined efforts of these brave women were successful:
two representatives came down from her office and accepted our letter,
signatures, banner, and flowers. They stayed for about 10 minutes
to hear Eli's words about what it is like to serve in Iraq
and why the troops need to come home. They promised a future meeting.
We'll see Eli has a very unique and powerful way of speaking
and connecting with people and I hope that she may be able to relate
this story in writing from her perspective.
We have so many people to thank for making this week of action
possible—all the amazing women and men who came to the
vigil, some in the early hours of the morning, and some staying
through the windy nights; the musicians and performers who wove
their arts into the action; the politicians, veterans, Iraqis, and
activists who shared their words on the loudspeaker; the Gandhi
Peace Brigade with the giant puppet and Jes's awesome enthusiasm;
all the endorsing organizations and individuals; the CODEPINK
staff and interns and the Bay Area CODEPINK
local group; the people who are typing in all the Voters for Peace
signatures; our kick off “fast supper” of delicious donated
food from the Catholic Worker soup kitchen; the copy shop that gave
us free copying because they believe in what we do; the corporate
cafes that tolerated our constant stream of people using their bathroom
and wireless; Odwalla who donated crates of lemonade; Sam who sold
the Street Sheet paper and wore pink, keeping our spirits up; AND
TOO MANY PEOPLE TO MENTION!!! I am especially grateful for the
opportunity to work with Eli and Sureya, and to bear witness to
these two women with their war-torn hearts working together—veteran
and Iraqi—embodying peace.
Bay Area CODEPINK will continue taking
action by moving their weekly 5:15pm vigil to outside Senator Dianne
Feinstein's office (One Post and Market St.). We will also
join Jane Jackson (email@example.com) in the East Bay
who will be fasting everyday outside of the Oakland Federal Building
at 1301 Clay Street by the 12th Street BART station. Lastly, we
are asking everyone in California to call the Senator's office
daily at (415) 393-0707 and ask her to vote to bring the troops
Fast wise, this day isn't much different than yesterday. But
im not fooled. Eleven days into a fast is the equivalent of 200
feet in a mile run. Best policy is to take it one day at a time.
And interesting enough, one sure thing that a fast will automically
deliver to your door is a very calm spot where only the ' now'
is present. Yesterday doesn't bother you, tomorrow doesn't
bother you. Heck, even Fox News doesn't bother you.
I had the real unfortunate task of being on Fox News. Hannity
and Combes. What can I say. I had only seen them in passing
by a tv set, but their reputation for rabid skunkness was everywhere.
I sure didn't want to do it, disliking talking as I do. But
news stations always get these real nice guys to do the coaxing.
They just wanted my comment on the Ragiing Grannies version of the
star spangled banner and the hunger strike. There was a choice of
Medea Benjamin or myself, and I was pulling for Medea. After a long
conversation in a car, everybody figured Fox goes for the emotional
so I should go on. Lucky for me, I was eight days into the hunger
strike and hadn't had coffee in as long so I was calm to the
point of falling off my Fox chair. The skunkness didn't come
right off; it waited on the dark haired one who interrogated me
on Cindy Sheehan and everytime I started to say something, Original
Skunk yelled "Anwer the question! Answer the question! Yes
or no! Yes or no!" After about 4 attempts to say something
and being interrupted every time, I finally told Original Skunk
to "shut up and let me talk." So im very appreciative
of my newfound calmness. It helps when you go on Skunk News.
Holding this water bottle pretty close. I try not to use a different
plastic bottle every day and end up polluting the earth with more
trash. We've got enough landfills. The car that has the water
jugs is out at the capitol so ive got an empty water bottle. Oh
well, so much for drinking water. Dick Gregory, the legendary faster
and our official "doctor"said drink at least a gallon
of water a day and I certainly don't do that. Probably more
like 2 pints. Maybe that's the reason my voice gets lower and
lower; its gotta be a water issue there. Dick said don't go
to the doctors if you get sick because they don't know nothing
about fasters. They're only interested in those that have been
eating. Have no advice other than, "start eating!" I find
that pretty amazing especially as research with rats (or maybe its
mice) have shown that starving them a little bit lengthens their
life. So if this hunger strike doesn't kill me then im sure
I'll live to a ripe old age. Another little amazing fact is
that when you start fasting, the body burns the fat cells for energy
and the fat cells is where chemicals you have been exposed to are
stored. So fasting releases those contaminates from your body and
hopefully with all that water you're drinking, you get rid
of a lot of bad stuff. Probably why you live so long. "Doc"
Gregory comes down to the park every day. Very well dressed man.
I wont even guess at his age but he does discuss Babe Ruth and folks
like that. Yesterday he was in sharp looking white suit and he looked
like he just stepped off a model ramp. Fasting has certainly not
harmed that man. He's on a juice fast and the last time he
did a juice fast he was on it for 270 days. Gregory also said he
use to weigh 300 pounds. Now he's about 125 pounds dripping
wet. Ive done 7 hunger fasts so ive got a good idea of how it works.
The first 4 days is usually the worst and then it starts getting
better. Youre not hungry anymore, although a woman yesterday in
our evening circle said she was "hungry!!!". I know ive
been on strikes before and at 20 days I feel that maybe im mistaken;
maybe im not on a hunger strike at all. The "Doc" says
this is because the body's own morphin is cruising through
your body. Its an automatic reaction to the fasting. "Doc"
says when you see all those starving kids in Africa with bloated
bellies and tiny arms and legs and you wonder why they don't
swat off all those flies, its because they're high as a kite.
That's what the "Doc" says.
I started a letter on the first day but pooped out. Probably it
was that 2 mile walk in the hot hot sun that did it. Dick Gregory,
who's famous for his hunger strikes on the Viet Nam war, made a
speech under the trees and said if you're on a fast its real important
to pace yourself, don't exercise, don't walk 50 blocks to a July
4 parade. But on the first day, even with seven hunger strikes under
my belt, I walked all the way to the parade. Then the rest of the
day I sat under a tree, red-faced and exhausted. Not a good start.
But here I am, fourth day into the strike or fast or whatever
you want to call it. Feeling much better. Energy aint bad. I'm
a cafeein nut; drink coffee all day long and I'll tell you
a little secret, I've always felt my high energy came from
all that coffee.. But I haven't had coffee in 4 days and still
my energy comes. It sneeks upon me like a small green snake wiggling
across the yard
Some of the women felling weak and are having little fainting
spells. Not actually fainting, but getting dizzy and nauseous. They
get pass that stage, though. Day four is a breaking point. I don't
get faint at all. Don't know why, maybe it's from being
from Texas. Reason enough.
Out of the 4 days of fasting, we've been rained out twice
and run out by the cops twice. For no apparent reason, here come
the fellas yelling at everybody to get clean outa the park. Nobody
allowed. First time that happened, a big dignitary was arriving
at the White House. The next time it happened, the prime minister
of Canada was coming and going at the White house and here come
the cops. I'd like to describe them more than just 'cops'
but frankly Im not sure who's at the bottom of this. The secret
service, the swap team, and the K-9's were involved so I'm
a little unsure of who was really incharge. The second time the
cops came, we just got close to the road between the White House
and Lafette Park with our banners to bring the troops home and refused
to move. The cops came up and said we had to move. Get out. It was
for our own security. We said, "Why?" and they said there's
harmful emissions out there and the alarms are going off all over
the place. We said what harmful emissions and they very dead faced
and serious. "Radiation."
Well why weren't the cops wearing masks? Why did they look
so calm about the whole thing if radiation was running rampant?
What about that poor president over there? Wouldn't the radiation
affect the president? Did the EPA know about the radiation problem?
Well the cops didn't worry about the president because doctors
would take care of George Bush, it was just our health they were
worried about, so get outa the park.
Eventually we stonewalled and asked enough questions that even
the vistors that got ran out got tired and started coming back in.
Then it was sure enough ruin for the evacuation. Now they just clear
the road and leave the park to us. Victory comes in small doses.
The first hunger strike I did on a shrimp boat in Texas is kinda
like that tree in the forest illustration. You know, does it make
a sound if nobody hears it. I was hunger fasting on a shrimp boat
and that was 1991 and I was still ignorant of the uses of cell phones,
So there I was on a shrimp boat and a lot of folks were putting
me thru the ringer on it. My mom and sisters and two brothers included.
The only folks that knew about the hunger strike was the Formosa
Plastics, a petrochemical plant, that I was fighting. So every day,
here came the corporate officers in their black suits and they'd
tell me how stupid I looked. Didn't I realize how stupid I looked.
Well, no I didn't so I stayed there until the captain of the shrimp
boat showed up and told me to get off his dang boat or he'd throw
me overboard. Amazingly, after 14 days I won everything I wanted
on that hunger strike.
Now here I am on my 8th hunger strike in Washington DC and a hot
day in Washington is whole lot like Texas minus the humidity. I
had spent my first night in Washington dc on a porch swing, the
wind on my face, and not a single mosquita around. Nobody rushed
me to get up, I had an automatic alarm clock-- old shrimping habits.
Not counting the hunger strike, we have a pretty generous schedule
. all us fasters and supporters were suppose to met at 10am under
the trees across from the white house It is a lot more generous
than the first codepink vigil back in 2003, pre Iraqi war, when
we sat on stone cold bences in lafette park at 7am on very cold
morning. Its not bad under the trees. We've got a bunch of codepink
banners left over from a hundred protests that we sit on and after
a prayer and some singing, our day begins.
CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. The name CODEPINK satirized the Bush Administration's color-coded, fear-mongering "security" alert system that has since been phased out. CODEPINK is a lively call for the people of the world to "wage peace." More...