There used to be two great joys on Fridays for Iraqis in Baghdad: browsing the ancient bookshops, and exploring the Ghazil animal market, home to an extraordinary array of creatures.
One by one, though, the storied booksellers on Mutanabi Street have seen business fade away, the customers fearful of crowded places.
The animal market, too, has suffered, having been reduced to a shell of its lively former self. When a bomb exploded there on Friday, killing 15 people and wounding 50, it was the third such attack since June.
In the chaos after the blast, snakes slithered through bloody streets where animal carcasses were jumbled with human remains. Exotic birds flew off as rescue workers tried to aid the wounded.
"We were standing in the middle of the market, looking at the birds, and suddenly there was a massive explosion," said a man who gave his name as Qusay, and who liked to scout for rare pigeons to breed. Both his legs were broken by the explosion. He said he was taken to the hospital, where he found doctors with no supplies trying to treat ghastly wounds.
The above is from Marc Santora's "Suicide Bomb Erases a Fading Vestige of Joy in Baghdad" in this morning's New York Times. Not without faults (read the skimming of the slaughter of Haifa Street) but the best thing he's written for the paper since he got on the Iraq beat. (He also notes the number of corpses discovered in the capital yesterday, 27.) It's nice to see him drop the gossip pose for at least one day.
Turning to the topic of Ehren Watada, we'll note Joe Copeland's "Watada points out our responsibilities" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer):
If Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada has some extra hope this morning about ending the Iraq war, Americans can take a little credit. Toward the end of last week, the 28-year-old officer who courageously refused orders to go to Iraq was hoping for good turnouts in anti-war events planned for Saturday in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
After four years of quiescence in the face of a wrongly launched war that has gone from "Mission Accomplished" to what a top commander finally confessed is a "dire" situation, Americans ought to demand a change of course. Change requires more public involvement than voting out a few congressional incumbents. National protest organizers hoped for up to 300,000 people to march Saturday.
Watada has had the courage to point out citizens' responsibilities. As he awaits a court-martial beginning Feb. 5 for acting responsibly and refusing to serve in what he regards as an illegal war (he volunteered to go to Afghanistan instead), Watada is allowed to travel up to 250 miles from Fort Lewis. He has been telling groups in Seattle, Tacoma and elsewhere that citizens have the power to end the war.
His honesty isn't surprising, and asking people to take responsibility doesn't at all go beyond what Watada expects of himself. When most of the country was still following President Bush's post-Sept. 11 admonitions to go shopping, Watada decided to enlist in a delayed-entry program while he wrapped up studies at Hawaii Pacific University.
As we went to war, Watada believed the false talk about imminent danger to the United States and weapons of mass destruction. His views changed as he read up on Iraq in preparation, as he put it, to be a better leader of troops under his command. Instead, the growing knowledge led him to become the only commissioned officer known to refuse Iraq duty, acknowledging from the start that he might have to carry the imprisonment that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other practitioners of civil disobedience felt was their responsibility to accept in calling attention to wrongful government policy. In Watada's case, the prison time could be as much as six years.
Iraq today? Reuters reports 5 dead from a car bomb in Baghdad (10 wounded), mortar attacks wounded 2 in Baghdad and a car bomb in Kirkuk resulted in 2 deaths. They also report eight people were kidnapped from a store in Baghdad today.
Demonstrations, rallies and marches are going on around the country today. Hopefully, you're taking part in these activities. Erika wanted to be sure we noted something to remind again what today is and also "to give credit to those who earn it." From NOW's "NOW Calls for End to War in Iraq, Ready to March on Saturday:"
Statement of NOW Executive Vice President Olga Vives
January 24, 2007
The National Organization for Women is proud to be a part of this powerful coalition calling for an end to the war in Iraq. Saturday's mobilization of people coming to our nation's capital from all over the country will demonstrate one more time to the Bush-Cheney administration and to Congress the level of disapproval at the continuation of the disaster this war has brought to Iraq, to the Middle East, to the United States, and to the world.
On Nov. 7, 2006, voters went to the polls with a very clear message: end the war. Congress switched hands to the Democratic leadership when voters elected candidates who pledged to bring a resolution to the conflict in Iraq. Women in particular expressed their displeasure with their votes -- electing 10 new women to the House of Representatives, 8 of them Democrats, and 2 to the Senate, both Democrats as well. The gender gap in some races, like Jim Webb's in Virginia and Jon Tester's in Montana, was the margin of victory, and that margin decided the fate of the U.S. Senate. These candidates expressed their opposition to the continuing U.S. military actions in Iraq.
Women voted for change -- not more of the same. Surveys after the election show that the war in Iraq topped the list of women's concerns. This was followed by health care, Social Security, and the economy. And now, as if the voters hadn't spoken, we are confronted with the Bush administration's defiance of the people's clear message with a planned escalation of troops in Iraq, in spite of what appears to be a bipartisan consensus that this latest plan for the war will not be successful either. President Bush has chosen not to listen to his generals, bipartisan commissions and members of Congress, and instead has chosen to further his own failed plan. Past troop "surges" have met with little success.
The human cost of the war in Iraq is enormous. Over 3,000 U.S. military men and women and an estimated 55,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. Countless more have suffered serious injuries and most Iraqis live in constant fear. It seems that the only beneficiaries of the U.S. action in Iraq are Halliburton, Bechtel and other disaster profiteers. And now, our president is ready to send even more troops into this carnage, into the middle of what we have created in Iraq: a civil war.
The monetary cost is depleting our treasury and saddling future generations with a mountain of debt; domestic programs that help the most vulnerable are set aside while the benefits of building the military complex to sustain the war enrich a few individuals and corporations.
NOW's stance against the Iraq war dates back to 2002, when on the eve of the Iraq invasion and occupation we expressed our opposition to military action. We knew then as we know now, as stated in a resolutions approved by our membership, that women bear additional personal costs in patriarchal wars that ruin their country's physical infrastructure, destabilize their economy, destroy their homes and kill and maim children and families. Eighty percent of the world's refugees and displaced persons are women and children. Women are victims of increased sexual abuse in areas of conflict and in the military, as we have seen here at home at military bases and recruitment centers, and in Iraq. Sexual violence and abduction of women and girls increase significantly under military occupation; perpetrators are rarely appreheded and prosecuted in such violent and hostile environments.
The National Organization for Women encourages its members and supporters to come to Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 27. The Bush-Cheney administration apparently did not hear the voters' message; they are doing exactly the opposite of what the voters called for. So we are coming to visit them, right here on their doorstep, knocking on their door, voicing our opposition to their plan to escalate and continue to occupy Iraq. There was an opinion poll this week about the president's leadership. People said that he was decisive and stubborn; and I would add to that: wrong! The incompetence of this administration, the mistakes in the planning and execution of the war, is mind-boggling. How could we allow them to continue to lead us in this reckless direction?
And to our friends in Congress we say: We will work with you and support you in your efforts to end the war. We want our women and men deployed in Iraq to come home now. We call for withdrawal of all U.S. troops immediately and a plan to help the region find political and diplomatic solutions, not military ones, to an end to what has become a national tragedy not only for the Iraqi people but for the people of the United States. And we call for a plan to reconstruct Iraq with funding for the victims of war, namely women and children -- providing them with housing, health care, education and safety.
One man alone cannot impose his will on the people of a nation. Our democratic system relies on the balance of power. The United States Congress must exercise their oversight and appropriation authority to effectively end this war and to investigate this administration's conduct in leading us to war with what now appears to have been false information. Congress now has a mission to accomplish to fulfill the wishes of the people who sent them there. That mission is to bring an end to the war in Iraq effectively and over the objections of Bush and Cheney.
To the members of the National Organization for Women, our supporters and our allies: come to Washington, D.C., this weekend and let your voice be heard for peace, for freedom, for justice!
Those looking for coverage of today's events have at least three resources:
KPFA which will broadcast live from the DC demonstrations from 10:00 am to noon PST. (At which point it will begin covering demonstrations in the Bay Area.), Laura Flanders who will cover the days demonstration Saturday night (7:00 to 10:00 pm EST) on her program RadioNation with Laura Flanders (heard on Air America Radio and other outlets) and WBAI will broadcast live coverage of the demonstrations from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm EST. All three can be listened to over the airwaves and online.
The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:
Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot;
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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sex and politics and screeds and attitude
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cedrics big mix
mikey likes it
thomas friedman is a great man