Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The mortuary in Iraq

Ms. JESS GOODELL (Former Mortuary Affairs Marine, Author, "Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq"): Well, we often wouldn't know what we were getting ourselves into. So we would be at the bunker, and we would get a call that would say a Marine was down. And they would give us the location. And that was pretty much all the information that we had. And so we came prepared for whatever the case might be. So sometimes we would put on suits. Because of the nature of death in the Iraq War, often bodies that die are as a result of an explosion. So it isn't, you know, a clean body on the ground. Sometimes it's a little more messy.

GROSS: And the HazMat suit was to protect you from infection?

Ms. GOODELL: I suppose also, I think, you know, blood splatters or insides. Sometimes the remains, because they had exploded, we would have to scoop them with our hands.

GROSS: Why was it important to collect all the remains, even the remains that you had to scoop with your hands?

Ms. GOODELL: well, about that time, it was 2004 when I was in Iraq, there had recently been showings of extremists who had taken body parts of Americans and had paraded them either in town or down the streets. And we wanted to prevent that from happening. The second reason is because we knew how important it would be to the family members to know that they had all of their loved ones' remains.

The above is from Terry Gross' Fresh Air (NPR) yesterday. Here for audio. Jess Goodell is the author of Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq.

masculinist terry

NPR listeners have to put up with a lot of crap from Terry -- the ambi-sexual, aged 'pixie' who doesn't seem to realize what to do when gamine turns into haggard but always has time to ask (failed) sitcom stars to describe lap dances in detail and to ask sex workers about tying up men because, after all, isn't that what educational radio is all about? Year-round, NPR listeners have to endure Terry's tired attempts at titillation and her gross sexism (less than 19% of her guests for 2010 were women -- and the illustration is by Isaiah and used in that article Ann, Ava and I wrote for Third). There's only one or two shows she produces in a given year that are worth listening to so grab the latest, it may be months before she finds a worthy topic again. And for those who can't take the War Hawk's attempts at speaking like a dominatrix, click here to avoid Terry's voice and just read the transcript.

The dying continues in Iraq with a major assault in Diwaniya just yesterday resulting in the deaths of at least 27 Iraqis (if you're late on that story, the New York Times' Michael S. Schmidt discussed the attack on yesterday's The Takeaway) and, of course, 9 US soldiers have died in the war this month.

If you thought the government or 'government' in Baghdad was focused on governing and improving the lives of Iraqis, you are mistaken. Not only are the basic needs of the people (electricity, potable water, jobs, etc.) not being addressed, but Iraq lacks security ministers -- with at least one MP claiming the Iraqi military doesn't have needed equipment or fire arms because the country still has no Minister of the Defense. (Nor do they have a Minister of National Security or a Minister of the Interior.)

What do they have time?

Hoshyar Zebari has time to play footsie with the Iranian government.

Iran's Fars News Agency reports, "Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his country is in talks with Tehran to decide a future for the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO)." The PMOI is approximately 3,000 dissidents from Iran, Marxists, who left their country and came to Iraq following the fall of the Shah. It's interesting that Big Boy Hoshyar is in Iran talking about 3,000 Iranians confined to Camp Ashraf while Kurdish Hoshyar is damn well aware that Kurdish separatists have set up base camp in the mountains of northern Iraq and that they bomb and attack Turkey from that base. It's so very strange that Hoshyar wants to grand-stand on claims of 'addressing' terrorism when he's done nothing to stop them. In fact, grandstanding on the issue of Camp Ashraf not only allows him to cozy up to the Iranian government, it allows him to present a we-will-not-tolerate-terrorists pose. That's a pose that the mountains of northern Iraq -- and reality -- might reject.

While Iraqi's starve for food, Hoshyar shows in Tehran looking as if he's been hoarding and eating months of food rations intended for the Iraqi people. Check out the photo Press TV runs with the story on Hoshyar insisting that Camp Ashraf will close at the end of the year and all the residents will have to find new countries to live in. The Tehran Times adds, "Zebari also said the Iraqi government will spare no effort to help free Iranians being imprisoned in Iraq."

The following community sites -- plus and Jane Fonda -- updated last night and today:

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "Immigration and the Culture of Solidarity" (Americas Program):

Editor's Note: This is the fifth and final article of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. All articles in the series were originally published in the Institute for Transnational Social Change's report Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity. To download a PDF of the entire report, visit the Americas Program website.

ONE indispensable part of education and solidarity is greater contact between Mexican union organizers and their U.S. counterparts. The base for that contact already exists in the massive movement of people between the two countries.

Miners fired in Cananea, or electrical workers fired in Mexico City, become workers in Phoenix, Los Angeles and New York. Twelve million Mexican workers in the U.S. are a natural base of support for Mexican unions. They bring with them the experience of the battles waged by their unions. They can raise money and support. Their families are still living in Mexico, and many are active in political and labor campaigns. As workers and union members in the U.S., they can help win support from U.S. unions for the battles taking place in Mexico.

This is not a new idea. It's what the Flores Magon brothers were doing for the uprising in Cananea. It's why the Mexican left sent activists and organizers to the Rio Grande Valley in the 1930s, and to Los Angeles in the 1970s. All these efforts had a profound impact on U.S. unions and workers. The sea change in the politics of Los Angeles in the last two decades, while it has many roots, shows the long-term results of immigrants gaining political power, and the role of politically conscious immigrant organizers in that process.

Today some U.S. unions see the potential in organizing in immigrant communities. But most unions in Mexico, in contrast to the past, don't see this movement of people as a resource they can or should organize.

What would happen if Mexican unions began sending organizers or active workers north into the U.S.? In reality, active members are already making that move, and have been for a long time. Yet there is no organized way of looking at this. Where, for instance, will the people displaced in today's Mexican labor struggles go? In 1998, almost 900 active blacklisted miners from Cananea had to leave after their strike that year was lost. Many came to Arizona and California. In Mexico City, 26,000 SME members took the indemnizacion and gave up claim to their jobs and unions. Many of them will inevitably be forced to go to the U.S. to look for work.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends