The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I've learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.
Syria is the only country, other than Jordan, that was allowing people in without a visa. The Jordanians are being horrible with refugees. Families risk being turned back at the Jordanian border, or denied entry at Amman Airport. It’s too high a risk for most families.
We waited for hours, in spite of the fact that the driver we were with had 'connections', which meant he'd been to Syria and back so many times, he knew all the right people to bribe for a safe passage through the borders. I sat nervously at the border. The tears had stopped about an hour after we'd left Baghdad. Just seeing the dirty streets, the ruins of buildings and houses, the smoke-filled horizon all helped me realize how fortunate I was to have a chance for something safer.
By the time we were out of Baghdad, my heart was no longer aching as it had been while we were still leaving it. The cars around us on the border were making me nervous. I hated being in the middle of so many possibly explosive vehicles. A part of me wanted to study the faces of the people around me, mostly families, and the other part of me, the one that's been trained to stay out of trouble the last four years, told me to keep my eyes to myself- it was almost over.
It was finally our turn. I sat stiffly in the car and waited as money passed hands; our passports were looked over and finally stamped. We were ushered along and the driver smiled with satisfaction, "It's been an easy trip, Alhamdulillah," he said cheerfully.
As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn't want to seem like a baby. I didn't want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.
The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds... we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.
We were all refugees -- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same -- there's a unique expression you’ll find on their faces -- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.
The above is from Riverbend's "Leaving Home..." (Baghdad Burning). The great news is Riverbend is alive. The bad news is that she's driven from her own country because of the Bully Boy's illegal war. The excerpt is from the final part of her latest posting. Brady noted the post and recommended the ending. He wrote that even though it was obvious she was at least semi-safe because she was blogging, he had to cheat and go to the end to make sure she got out of Iraq. He said most people would probably react the same (I think he's right) and recommended that the last part be highlighted. Again, Riverbend's safe and, again, due to Bully Boy's illegal war and the chaos he wanted in Iraq, she and her family have had to leave their home and their country. She now joins over four million internally and externally displaced Iraqi refugees -- all created by the illegal war.
When we allow our Congress, the one we changed the majority of in both houses to end the illegal war, to do nothing, we are responsible for this even if we oppose the illegal war. Riverbend is the most well known Iraqi woman. By writing what she saw around her, she has given a voice to what life was like for young women in Iraq. We should all be happy she and her family made it out but we should never forget that she was forced to leave by an illegal war. Because she can write so movingly, we all have a feeling that we know her. There are many, many more Iraqi women we don't know and they are suffering due to the illegal war.
There is no 'liberation' in Iraq, there is no 'democracy' in Iraq. Puppet governments do not provide democracy and occupied countries do not provide freedom. The illegal war needs to end. By this afternoon, media outlets were reporting at least 17 deaths in Iraq today. Many more went unreported. By this afternoon, the death of another US soldier was announced. The dying will continue and the US is responsible. The US started the illegal war and the US continues to fund and support the illegal war. Though the majority of the American people want the troops withdrawn (all the troops), the Congress takes a page from the Bully Boy's book and thinks they can hold public office without being responsive to the people.
They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)
Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3735. Tonight? 3753. Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,028,360 (up from 1,018,263 the week prior) 1,032,938. That's 4,578 deaths since last Thursday and 14,675 deaths since two Thursdays ago. Those are reported deaths so they aren't all the deaths. This idea that Democratic leaders seem to have where the illegal war can be an issue kept 'alive' to sweep them into office in 2008 in huge numbers and let them take back the White House is a blood strategy, is a death strategy. In two weeks, 14,675 Iraqis have lost their lives so that the cowards in 'leadership' could shore up their chances for an electoral win come November 2008. That's two weeks. How large will the number by the time those elections roll around?
Iraqi lives don't matter to the 'leaders' and let's not kid that it's just xenophobia. December 31st, the death toll for US soldiers reached the 3,000 mark. 735 more deaths hasn't lit a fire under the 'leaders'.
This isn't a tragedy that's going on elsewhere in spite of the United States. Our Modern Day Carrie Nations -- led by the bloody thirsty Samantha Power -- not only do not a shed a tear over these deaths, they don't even see them as important, they feel no responsibility at all. They're off trying to 'save' another region (or 'save' it for big business). Last year, they spent 12 million on advertising. They didn't ship any supplies to Sudan, but they damn sure stirred up outrage and begged for force to be used (over the objections of relief agencies on the ground). Samantha Power is a citizen of the US and what's she done to end the illegal war? Not a damn thing. She's yoked up (again) with Barack Obama who can't stop repeating he was against the illegal war before it started. He likes to leave out the part where, while running for the Senate in 2004, he announced that he wasn't for withdrawing troops, where he said that because the illegal war had started, we couldn't withdraw troops. He and Samantha Power are the perfect match for each other. They specialize in faux outrage.
Faux outrage won't end the illegal war. AFP reports the Pentagon's announced there are 168,000 US service members in Iraq. (That's not counting mercenaries. Click here for AP on the same story.) The number will rise to 172,000, the Pentagon says, until November or December when the end of some roations will drop it down closer to 160,000. For those who've forgotten, there were approximately 140,000 US service members in Iraq when the Democratically controlled Congress was sworn in back in January. The Bully Boy announced the escalation (he called it a 'surge') and the American people were outraged. What did the Congress do? They didn't stop him. They didn't even try. They passed a 'symbolic' resolution opposing the escalation . . . symbolically.
But instead of expressing outrage at Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid (the leaders in the House and Senate), they're given cover. Katha Pollitt, who can't be bothered with Iraq, takes the time to write a piece of trash 'advice' column to Cindy Sheehan telling her not to run. Katha Pollitt refuses to hold Nancy Pelosi to the fire. Katha Pollitt then gets even more pissy when Cindy Sheehan points out the obvious: that Pollitt enables the illegal war. She does that not just by providing cover for Nancy Pelosi, she does it by ignoring Iraq as a topic to write about.
We lost Molly Ivins. A strong voice and one who stated she was going to focus on Iraq until the illegal war was over. We got a lot of nonsense from a lot of gas bags going into "I Remember Molly" but not one of them said, "In honor of Molly, I will be using my column space until the illegal war ends to carry out her final mission." They were happy to show up and play Molly's nearest and dearest. But if they actually cared, wouldn't one of them, at least one, had said, "I'm going to carry on what Molly planned"? They didn't.
It's easier to write dopey book reviews and travelogue from topic to topic (as Pollitt demonstrates). Actually caring about an illegal war, actually trying to stop it, that's too much work apparently. Alexander Cockburn did not write an outrageous column. But he actually should start trying to. It's the only thing that seems to get Pollitt motivated to write about the illegal war -- that and dopey little narratives that let her relive her sophomore English lit class.
As shocking as it was to many that the Democrats would get the control they begged for and do nothing with it, it should be just as shocking to see how little so many in alleged 'independent' media care about the illegal war. Well over a year ago, I asked did the right-wing care more about keeping the illegal war going than the left-wing cared about ending it?
The polls demonstrate the people want it ended. But it's not just Congress that has failed the people, it's also a great many of our 'independent' voices. Why has the US Congress gotten away with continuing the illegal war? Because so much of 'independent' media is wasted providing excuses and cover for them.
The (US) Socialist Worker has an editorial entitled "How is Bush getting away with it?" and it's a must read. Rebecca's already highlighted one section of it (and called me to tell me about the editorial). They mention UPFJ and on that, I should add, students want local actions. They are tired of the trip to DC on a weekend (and tired of getting the money together) when it doesn't seem to accomplish anything. (That's not a slap down of this month's events. This month's events have actions tied in.) UPFJ isn't posting the local events yet.
I'm not going to slam for that. Especially after the crap that went down in Fort Worth last Saturday. That wasn't a rally. That was 'leaders' want to have their own little party and making it clear throughout the week that they didn't want 'outsiders' present. So UPFJ may be waiting for concrete details. I honestly think they shouldn't post any event from any organization that doesn't have a plan for getting the word out that goes beyond 'we will do a web posting!' So I will give UPFJ some leeway. What happened in Fort Worth was a disaster and an embarrassment. And anyone who thinks they can throw a private party and call it 'rally' to get speakers to waste their time traveling to what they think is a rally should be called out. So if that's the reason or something similar, I understand UPFJ waiting to post events.
That's also not a slap down of the Socialist Worker. They raise a good point. But, having watched as enthusiasm soared on Tuesdays and for half-of Wednesday among Texas members who were so thrilled about the event in their e-mails, only to see the e-mails start to come in noting that they didn't feel they were wanted at the rally, that the 'leaders' weren't promoting the rally, that fliers didn't even exist, that . . . Go down the list. They took what should have been a huge event and dampened everyone's enthusiasm. More than dampened, they soured it.
And that's not the first time that's happened in that area. This seems to be a pattern. There was no effort to reach out. They took a hot September day (that they knew, short of rainfall, would be hot -- and if it rained, it would be humid) and decided an eight hour event was the way everyone wanted to spend their Saturday. They 'planned' the rally and the march at such a time that it was at the hottest time of the day. Instead of using a central location with mass transit, they took the event to Fort Worth. They posted information about the TRE that was incorrect. They didn't post needed information (such as the cost to ride the TRE -- and you get a ticket, a costly one, from the police if they walk through and you're on the TRE -- you don't just get kicked off the train). They wanted people to travel by a train to Fort Worth and then walk several blocks (if you came right before the rally started, you might be able to get a ride) to a rally and march. They started that nonsense about tickets 'required.' It was one nightmare after another. And I've now heard from every college member in the DFW area and not one college had a flier, not one college had a speaker come in to tell them about the rally. There were no fliers put up at libraries, there was no effort to reach out.
The event was a flat out failure and that goes to 'leadership' not to the people who lived in the area.
Marcus asked if we could note The Nation's "hideous" poll? Yes, we can. It's not up anymore but here was the question and the choices people could answer:
Should Cindy Sheehan be challenging Nancy Pelosi in 2008?
Absolutely. Someone needs to hold Pelosi accountable for taking impeachment off the table.
Sure. The whole process is a circus anyway; we might as well add another sideshow.
No way. Sheehan already has a crucial role to play as an activist.
I'm sick of Sheehan. Didn't she retire from politics?
"I'm sick of Sheehan. Didn't she retire from politics?" But they're being 'helpful.' All of them. They're being helpful. Rush Limbaugh could have made a comment like that a year ago. The Nation probably would've acted as if they were shocked and appalled. But it's gloves off as they try to but into a local Congressional race. The Nation's not based in San Francisco. It was embarrassing when the "Ralph Don't Run" crap was going on. No one should ever be told not to run. But Nader was running for national office so possibly there was some reason for people to weigh in. But there's no reason for The Nation to stick it's ugly, hypocritical nose into a local race. Because they've been called out (rightly) on their wishy-washy opposition to the illegal war, they've jumped ahead a few months to offer one of those 'fiery' editorials that they never back up with coverage. Like an immature brat caught stumbling in after midnight drunk, they show up now trying to act 'upright' but everyone saw them stubmling. Everyone knows how weak ass they are. It's goes to the 'leadership' at the magazine or the lack of it. They also are such dumb asses that they repeat adminsitration spin. Even after the Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers have questioned the figures on Baghdad (and McClatchy's figures disprove the claims), their limp editorial repeats the White House talking point.
Let's again note Renee Schoof's "Back from vacation, Congress to renew debate on Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers):
Statistics that McClatchy Newspapers collected in Baghdad don’t show any drop in violence. Civilian deaths in the capital were about the same in July as in December, before the American troop increase began. U.S. officials in Baghdad declined to provide data to back up their claims of lower violence.
Bill Moyers has rightly pointed out that McClatchy (then Knight-Ridder) wasn't invited on the chat shows. And still aren't, despite the fact that they were right. But apparently that lesson flew over the head of the editor & publisher of the magazine who still can't seem to cite it.
It is the most weak ass, uninformed editorial and it goes to the very nature of what a piece of useless crap that magazine has so quickly become. The clue of the downhill slide should have been the refusal to stand up loudly for Lynne Stewart. Or maybe when, out of 'fairness,' the editor and publisher decided to call out Harry Belafonte and lump him with the likes of Bill O'Reilly. There's too much concern with how DC sees the magazine and too little concern with serving readers.
The good news for everyone is that Katha Pollitt's dusted off her "I don't believe in God" column to re-run it again. She really has a limited number of topics to write about, no wonder she ends each year with a list of charities. She phones it in. She wastes everyone's time and she prolongs the illegal war. She's married this presidential election so she may not be able to churn out the usual column on single women voters. Does anyone ever grasp how she is the center of her own world? And that she seems to think she's the center of everyone else's world as well? If she's practicing 'write what you know,' for some reason her limited knowledge base didn't prevent her from writing about the eighth district in California with no knowledge of it.
On the plus side, Riverbend is alive. She was forced out of her own country because of the illegal war and she wasn't the first and will not be the last. Troops home now. An occupation isn't self-rule and it isn't 'democracy.'
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and the war drags on