Monday, March 15, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, over the weekend 2 US service members were killed, fraud allegations grow louder in the Iraqi elections, a kidnapped victim's integrity is attacked by . . . his admitted kidnappers, the US Army releases suicide data, being the wife of the Joint Chiefs of Staff doesn't mean the military provides you with answers, why did Nouri go into hiding, and more.
Sunday Reuters reported the US base in Baquba was attacked Saturday, two US service members were wounded and a third was killed. But there were two deaths. Margaret Griffis (Antiwar) explains there were two deaths, "One U.S. soldier was killed and two others were wounded during a mortar attack on a base in Diyala province. Another U.S. soldier died of non-combat causes in Ninewa province." The US military has still not posted any press release on the deaths. The two deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4384.
Renowned journalist Robert Fisk speaks to the Iraqi elecitons, "Well first of all I rather suspect that the battle is between Iran and the West not between Iran and Arab Nationalism and the Arab fold as you put it. It was very interesting, wasn't it, that when Maliki's people and basically -- let's be sectarian for a moment, I'm sorry to say -- the Shia tried to stop Ba'athists who -- people with Ba'athists backgrounds from participating in the elections. This was very similar, was it not, to the Committee of Experts in Iran who also have the right to ban for various reasons certain candidates and elections. I thought that was a bit chilling. Although I notice that none of the commentators or analysts covering the election -- this election -- actually chose to mention this."
Robert Fisk was speaking on the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) where he, the National Endowment for Democracy's Laith Kubba and Iraqi Foundation for Development and Democracy director Ghassan Aityyah joined host Jasim Azzawi.
Jasim al-Azawi: Robert, let me start with you. Your recent article about Iraq, you praise Iraqis for going to the polls while bombs exploding all over Iraq. And yet you cast a measure of doubt -- and perhaps even cynicism -- on whether Iraqis or more importantly the leaders of the Iraqi political blocs will be able to translate this good will this good gesture by Iraqis into reality and into progress.
Robert Fisk: Yes. I think there are two things here. First of all, by the way, when the Americans have "withdrawn," they're still leaving 50,000 troops behind. But I think there's a danger, you know, that we're going to get caught up in what was the Constitutionality of this and how many, what was the percentage swing here and there' -- as if this is an ordinary, European-style election. My doubts are that you can really have a serious election when you're under foreign occupation. And the Iraqis are -- with tens and tens of thousands of foreign troops on their soil. The same applies to Afghanistan. The same applies to the French way back when back in Lebanon. The British did it in Cyprus and in Northern Ireland. My suspicion and my fear is that however "democratic" the vote may be. It will be sectarian if it is under foreign occupation. And that the issues at the end of the day here are always going to be: When are the Americans going to go? Not the "combat" troops but all the troops. And I think that that is very much what we're talking about. And, for example, Iran wants to see the Americans out of Iraq. The Dawa Party was nurtured in Iran. We forget now that the wonderful Dawa Party to which we bow at the knee of respect and democracy was not that many years ago seizing Western hostages in Beruit, trying to blow up the Emir of Kuwait, attacking the American embassies -- the American and French embassies in Kuwait. And this is a grouping which has direct umbililcal links with Iran. I don't actually think Iran wants to overthrow or create chaos, anarchy in Iraq, but that connection remains there. And as along as the Americans remain, these will be the strings and the issues with which we have to contend with. Sectarianism, sectarianism, sectarianims is already there. That's what the election was about. That's what the election in Afghansitan was about. And then we have to pretend it was fair even though we know it was false.
Jasim al-Azawi: Laith Kubba, the American presence in Iraq notwithstanding to what extent, as Robert Fisk said, Iraqis will be able to escape the sectarianism? Is sectarianism and sectarian quotas going to be the destiny of Iraqis for generations to come?
Laith Kubba: Well all the points that Robert raised are valid. I think we need to keep an eye on the big picture. In the big picture, there has been a real transformation -- slow, painful, full of risks, true -- but there has been real transformation in Iraqi political landscape. I think voters have been awakened over the last five years. I think initially voters were all polarized by sectarian-ethnic identities. We're seeing an awakening of the voters. That was not only manifested itself in the provincial elections  but I think even politicians like Maliki and others have fine-tuned their message rhetoric. New alliances emerged. I think, by and large, we're seeing voters pushing the political elite towards a national, central, moderate position. We do not hear the rhetoric of the Dawa Party on anything to do with Islamic state or anything to do with a broad Islamic agdena. We're seeing politics. Maybe raw, maybe rough, but I think we're seeing politics. I would argue sectarianism has not disappeared but it is on its way out. We're moving slowly and painfully towards real politics in Iraq and I think Iraqis deserve a lot of credit despite bombs -- over 130 bombs went off the day of the elections.
Jasim al-Azawi: Ghassan Aityyah. is this a genuine transformation among Iraqi political groups and political leaders? Or this is basically changing the tune simply because the provincial elections last year indicated that enough is enough?
Ghassan Aityyah: Jassim, to start with, Iraq is still not out of the wood. The problem are there and the American realize this. The question is the incremental changes that will bring stability to Iraq. As an Iraqi, as any ordinary Iraqi, he thinks in terms of stability where he can have his job, he can go along, he is not thinking in big slogans. The fact that the election took place no doubt better than 05. Logistically and the way, the manner it was done, this is a plus. Second question, will the party concerned in this election accept the result if it is not to their liking or are we going to see a repetition of the Iranian scene when the opposition defied the result and accused the government of rigging it? This is, we cannot tell unless we know exactly the result. The other thing: Iraqi is bascially divided and sectarian. This is a fact. The question how to deal with it? How to help Iraq survive and grow on on this situation? By simply cursing the-the darkness is not a solution. The Palestinian had election under the occupation and the election was considered fiar and acceptable. Other countries in Japan and in Germany, they had elections under occupation. So this is not a question really. The question is you have to take according to the Iraq situation.
Last Sunday, voting completed in Iraq and as Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers) put it so well, "The waiting is the hardest part." Jackie Lyden spoke to Quil Lawrence Saturday on Weekend Edition (link has audio and transcript):
LYDEN: So, how are Iraqis reacting to this long wait and what are the politicians doing in the meantime?
LAWRENCE: It seems to kind of depend on who people voted for whether they said this wait is okay. I've talked to a lot of people who support sitting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the capital. They say they think it's going fine. Similar results in Basra. But up in Mosul, for example, it's a bit more worrisome. People are saying that they think there might be attempts at fraud during this delay, but they are still convinced that they'll win, meaning that they're Sunni supported list probably Ayad Allawi will win. I can tell you right now that list is not going to win a majority. No one expects that to be the winner. So, it's a little bit disturbing to hear from the still the most troubled and violent part of the country saying they're confident they're going to win and it makes you wonder what they're going to say when the results do come out.
Saturday Al Jazzera reported that partial election results are in from 10 provinces but that it is "too close to call six days after the March 7 vote." Marc Santora (New York Times) notes that the counting continues and that "no clear winners likely to emerge anytime soon" leading to some frustration/anger over the counting. NBC's Richard Engel was back in Iraq for the elections. Last week, he blogged at MSNBC about Iraqis attempting to handicap their elections:
None of the guests at the villa thought Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would win enough votes to form a new government on his own. Everyone agreed that he will have to join his main rivals in a coalition. But how? When? Who's in? Who's out? How will it play out? No one knew, but everyone was happy to speculate.
After four hours, I was stuffed -- and twitching from so much coffee -- and utterly confused. One thing, however, was clear: it will take weeks, or more likely months, to put together a new government.
Sunday Oliver August (Times of London) reported that his paper had "a high-level Iraqi report" -- put together by the Tammuz Organization for Social Development, the Election Integrity Monitoring Team and Shams Network for Monitoring Elections -- which listed "violations across the country and includes evidence of the army and police interfering direclty with voting on March 7. Based on testimony compiled by three non-governmental agencies, the report says that in some Iraqi provinces 'security forces were urging people to vote for a specific list'." Alsumaria TV notes the European Union's delegation from parliament is led by Struan Stevenson who states that they will present evidence of "widespread fraud" in the Iraqi elections. Andrew North (BBC News) adds, "Evidence his supporters have presented includes ballot papers marked for his Iraqqiya list but allegedly found discarded outside polling stations. They say many of their supporters couldn't find their names on electoral lists, preventing them from voting, and that workers at the Baghdad election centre tampered with the count."
Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that Nouri al-Maliki is busy attempting to form power-sharing coalitions. She leaves out the fact that were it not for the media presenting him as a 'winner' (when results are still unknown), he wouldn't be able to do that. She leaves out the part where the Western press goes from observers to participants. On this week's Listening Post (Al Jazeera), Richard Gizbert observed, "As they scan their new media landscape, Iraqis are under no illusions about what they see. They know the channels covering the elections had their favorite candidates as did the newspapers." And presumably all Iraqis following the Western media were clearly attuned to the fact that the elections was being thrown to Nouri. As the Western media has rushed to portray him as the 'winner' (as early as last Monday for NPR -- before even any tally -- partial or otherwise -- was released), the message was sent to Iraqis that the US government wants Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister. Is that true? It doesn't matter. It's the message. In Iraq, the political parties control the media. As they watch Western media and see it mimic their own (as opposed to doing what reporters should have done which was to have covered other stories and not engaged in the horse race and gas baggery), they will conclude that the US media represents that country's government. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) points out, "Maliki's opponents and independent political observers, however, cautioned against calling the election just yet because the tallies so far are incomplete and, in some provinces, based on just 10 percent of votes counted." Marc Santora and Stephen Farrell (New York Times' At War blog) share photos of ballot counting and video of Santora inside while ballots are counted. The US Embassy in Iraq has photos of Iraqis voting at this webpage. The US Embassy also offers statements on the election from US Senator Richard Lugar and the Iraqi Ambassador to the US Samir Sumaida'ie. (Other statements are there as well but those statements appeared on other US government sites and were noted last week.)
Anthony Shadid and Sam Dagher (New York Times) report that the appointed (and ceremonial) President of Iraq position is becoming an issue. They describe Jalal Talabani as "avuncular" and deserve credit for that. (He's grossly overweight, under doctor's orders to lose weight that he's never lost, regularly comes to the US for treatment and, in the US, passed out at a bookstore and his bodyguards had to struggle to lift him and carry him out of the store.) Jalal, of course, angered Kurds by saying an independent Kurdish region was 'just a dream'. After that infamous remark, Jalal announced he would not attempt to seek the presidency again (and that infamous remark also impacted his political party's showing in the July 2009 elections). But, in the tradition of H. Ross Perot, Jalal attempted to walk back the remark and now wants to continue as President of Iraq. You would too if you needed the intense health care because you refuse to follow doctor's guidelines. The reporters note (previous remarks are my own and not in the report) that Tareq al-Hashimi, currently one of Iraq's two vice-presidents, wants the post. Again, it's a ceremonial post.
Meanwhile Nouri al-Maliki surfaced yesterday -- no word as to whether or not his saw his own shadow. Tim Arrango (New York Times) reports Nouri had a cyst removed from his stomach Wednesday. Or maybe it was from his hand. Or maybe it was a kidney stone. From his hand? Or maybe it was a bullet from an assassination attempt. No one's really sure of much of anything except that he "went through a surgical operation" and that when Ahmed Chalabi (said to have set up his own deal for the Iraqi prime minister post with the Iranian government) heard the news he "smiled and shook his head".
Violence continued in Iraq today.
Reuters notes a Falluja car bombing which claimed 7 lives and left twenty people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured three people, a Khaldiya bombing which claimed the life of Imam Abdul-Rahman al-Karbouli, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and another Mosul bombing which injured "one policeman and two girls"
Turning to England where a former hostage is being verbally attacked . . . by his kidnappers. May 29, 2007, in Baghdad, Peter Moore and four other British citizens were kidnapped by the League of Righteous. Of the other four, three corpses were turned over: Jason Crewswell, Jason Swindelhurst and Alec Maclachlan. The whereabouts and status of Alan McMenemy are unknown. The British government has stated their belief that he is dead while the family continues to hold out hope. The kidnapping is mentioned in the State Dept's just released "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:"
Five British men (a computer expert and four bodyguards) were kidnapped in 2007. Peter Moore, the computer expert, was released unharmed on December 30, while the bodies of three of the four bodyguards were returned on June 19 and September 3 to the United Kingdom. The whereabouts of the fifth man remained unknown at year's end. Fifteen Americans, four South Africans, four Russian diplomats, and one Japanese citizen who were abducted since 2003 remained missing. There was no further information on the 2007 kidnapping of the Ministry of Science and Technology acting undersecretary, Samir Salim al-Attar.
Last week Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reported that Moore states "he was hung by his arms from a door as a punishment and doused in water by his captors . . . he also told of a series of mock executions." Today Matthew Weaver (Guardian) reports that the League of Righteous is offended and insisting, "We deny the lies he said and assure all that we had treated him well." Oh, okay. If you say so. It's not like the group ever killed anyone . . . Oh, wait they did. They killed at least 3 British citizens and they also killed 5 US service members. Let's go to the June 9th snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
Meanwhile the efforts at revisionary history never cease when it comes to the Iraq War. And they're coming from all over including the US government. This US State Dept page is home to lies and errors. Lies? Try this one: "Citing Iraq's failure to comply with UN inspections, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in March-April 2003 and removed the Ba'ath regime, leading to the overthrow of the dictator Saddam Hussein." The US FAILED to comply with UN inspections which is why you saw the inspectors fleeing while Bully Boy Bush was trying to cowboy-up with his "Get out of Iraq" threat to Saddam. It's really amazing that when 'antiwar' and 'peace' Barry O is in the White House, no one's bothered to correct the lie on a page that has multiple post-2009 US inuaguration additions to it. When our 'changed' federal government can't get it right, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that so many others struggle? Last week at Truth/Slant, Allison Kilkenny took on Thomas Friedman and today she takes on Ross Douthat:
There are no shades of gray when it comes to the Bush administration's lie that Saddam had WMDs. Douthat tries his damnedest to "complex-up" the ether: Nothing was the same after 9/11, Dubya didn't know what he was doing, George H.W. let things "fester" in the Middle East too long, Saddam was a real bad guy!
That doesn't change the fact that the lie is a lie, and a bad thing. Trying to rationalize the Saddam-Al Qaeda link postmortem is called revisionism. And it's not -- as Douthat writes -- "reductionism" or "glib scapegoating" to hold public officials accountable for their actions, particularly when they are the illegal actions of the Bush administration. "Bush lied, people died" isn't just a catchy slogan. It's the truth.
Thursday, the US Defense Dept issued the latest monthly data on suicides in the Army:
The Army released suicide data today for the month of February. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 14 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide, and 13 remain under investigation. For January, the Army reported 12 potential suicides among active duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, two have been confirmed as suicides, and ten remain under investigation.
During February, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were five potential suicides: all five remain under investigation. For January, among that same group, there were 15 potential suicides. Of those, seven were confirmed as suicides and eight are pending determination of the manner of death.
"In our continuing efforts to sharpen our current focus on suicide prevention, we are conducting a comprehensive review of existing programs Army-wide, related to health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "We will use the results of this review to increase the effectiveness of our efforts."
"Because suicide affects every member of our Army family and no one is immune to depression, anxiety and stress; we are also expanding our training resources and support programs to address these issues with our Department of the Army civilians and family members," Philbrick said.
The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp.
Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf.
Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20 (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
Michelle Tan (Army Times) reports, "Of the 14 active duty soldiers who died in February, 13 were male. Eighter were married and six were single. Seven were noncomissioned officers, three were specialists, two were privates first class and two were privates. Four of them had never deployed; 10 had been deployed once, including four who were deployed when they died." Last Tuesday, Jed Boal (KSL 5 News -- link has text and video) reported that Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City has also seen a rise in civilian suicides with 2 civilian employees committing suicide since the start of the year "and one Airman" while, since 2006, a total of 25 Hill Air Force employees have taken their own lives. In a suicide prevention packet the ROTC distributes, they quote from a soldier's suicide note: "The Army will help if you know how to help yourself. That's the problem, I don't know how to help myself." Speaking at a DoD - VA Suicide Prevention Conference in DC last January, Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen noted how the army had just begun a $50 million, 5-year study (link has text and video) -- which may indicate a greater concern for the problem than the Army's 1990 ROTC packet. We noted Adm Mullen in January and now we'll note these comments his wife Deborah Mullen made at the conference:
I know that we're also looking how to assist family members who are survivors, who have had family members commit suicide, and I think that's very important. But there's another side to this and that's family members who commit suicide. I had a recent meeting with several of the leadership individauls from the Marines and the Army, and I asked about whether they track family member suicide. And the Army did say that they did; that they had nine family members last year who had committed suicide. I did not get a response out of the Marines. I don't think -- my understanding is that they don't generally track suicides because it tends to be left to the civilian investigators, and often, people don't really want to talk about the fact that someone has committed suicide, so we really may not have our arms around that figure. I asked about the number of suicide attempts by family members. And I was stunned when I was told that there are too many to track. So if you have a family, and let's say it's a spouse who has attempted suicide and her husband or the wife is serving overseas and we're not tracking this, are there children in the home that we are not aware of that we may need to be doing interventions with? I know that if that number is that large ust in -- this was the Army -- we realy don't have an idea of the scope of the problem with attempts by spouses in any of the other services. So we don't know how many children out there are at increased risk. Also, just the fact of a family who has someone serving downrange, if the mother or father has attempted suicide here in the States, this is a crisis -- this is a family in crisis -- and it's our responsibility; these are our family members. We have got to find a way to track them. I don't know if they're attempting this because this is the only way they feel they can get mental health, emotional health care. We don't really have any answers and I think we need to understand the answers. We know there's a stigma. Spouses tell me all the time that they would like to get mental health assistance but they really do believe, as incorrect as this is, but they really do believe that if they seek help, that it will have a negative impact on their spouse's military career. We have to to be -- this stigma is not just with the service member getting help. Recently, there was a spouse who -- I think it's been finalized that she did commit suicide. When I was reading about this, they believed it was suicide in Germany. And one of the things that the spouses talked about was there is no training for suicide prevention for spouses. There is suicide training but it's focused specifically on -- in the military, it's on the service member. I think we need to start to recognize that we have families that are under such great stress.
The Iraq War continues and hits the seventh year anniversary mark this week. Oren Dorell (USA Today) reports:
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan is restarting her campaign against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan today, setting up tents and teaching protest seminars near the Washington Monument.
Dubbed "Camp OUT NOW," the protest is geared to pressure President Obama and Democrats, whom Sheehan says have abandoned the anti-war cause now that they have control of the White House and Congress.
"Obama said there'd be one combat battalion coming home per month, and that has not happened," Sheehan says. "We still have significant troops in Iraq, and he's ramped up in Afghanistan.
"I don't think this is what people understood they were voting for. I think they were voting for a change."
For more information, you can visit Cindy Sheehan's website and Peace of the Action -- the latter of which explains:
The only way to peace is through the people.
Camp OUT NOW is the boldest and bravest action ever envisioned by and for peace.
Camp OUT NOW's stated objective is to: "Clog Washington, DC every week day through diffuse Civil Resistance (CR) actions to have the effect of tampering with 'business as usual' in the Capital of the United States of America."
Our demands are simple:
* Troops out of the Middle East, which includes drones, permanent bases, contractors and torture/detention facilities.
* Reparations for the peoples of these war torn regions and a fully funded VA system to reintegrate our soldiers healthfully into our society.
Most of the rest of the world is aware that the US is a Military/Corporate Empire and that the spread of this Empire is harmful globally to peace, the environment, and economic health. Part of Camp OUT NOW's mission is to bring awareness to Americans about the profound cost to all of us from this Empire.
We need as many people as possible who realize that time is running short for us to truly affect change by commitment and dedication to humanity through the end to the US Empire (and its subsidiaries).
Beginning March 1th, we will erect a tent city on the grounds of the Washington Monument as a base camp for our actions, community gathering and activites.
Your commitment can range from the entire action: Until our demands are met; or any other chunk of time that you are available.
Acts of civil resistance will begin on Monday, March 22nd and we will end when the troops start to come home.
Individual commitment will entail an at least a once a week CR mission and support to the group at large through contributing to the running and infrastructure of our encampment and the care and feeding of activists.
Finally, TV note. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
There are places in the world where the success of a soap opera is measured not just in TV ratings, but in human lives. On March 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to Kenya, where ambitious producers and actors hope one such TV show, "The Team", can help foster peace amongst the country's 42 official tribes.
During presidential elections two years ago, tribalism-influenced protests in Kenya left almost 1,500 dead and nearly 300,000 displaced. Tensions continue today over issues including extreme poverty and widespread corruption.
In "The Team", soccer players from different tribes work together to overcome historic rivalries and form a common bond. The hope is that commonalities portrayed in fiction can inspire harmony in the real world. Early reaction to the show's inaugural season is promising.
"I was very surprised to see how Kenyans want change, how they want to live in peace and the way the responded to us," Milly Mugadi, one of the show's stars, noted during a local screening. "There were people from different tribes talking about peace and how to reconcile with each other... they opened up their hearts."
John Marks, whose organization Common Ground produces versions of "The Team" in 12 different countries, is cautiously hopeful. "You don't watch one of our television shows and drop your submachine gun," explains Marks, who says he was inspired by the influence of "All in the Family" on American culture. "But you can change the environment so it becomes more and more difficult to be in violent conflict."
Can this soap opera for social change really make a difference in stopping violence? Next on NOW.