Still on peace, Joe Carter (Christianity Today) reviews Logan Mehl-Laituri's new book Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism & Conscience which explains how, in the military, he has a spiritual awakening against all forms of war, "applies to be a noncombatant conscientious objector, leaves the Army after his request is granted, and travels to Israel with a group of Christian peace activists." Mark Johnson (Fellowship of Reconciliation) shares:
Logan Mehl-Laituri spoke to us on March 16, 2007 from the front of the National Cathedral where some 3000 of us had gathered to hear testimony before walking through the snow to the White House to protest the Iraq War, in its 5th year. He describes the evening toward the end of his testimonial tracing his crystallization of conscience and journey as a Conscientious Objector, released today, July 4th 2012, because of a confirming epiphany he had in the Cathedral that evening, before the fresco of Jesus's Resurrection. Wandering the Church prior to the ceremony, at which he was asked to read the words of another recognized conscientious objector, Joshua Casteel, he had stumbled upon and fresco and recognized with full and final force the call to forgive one's enemies and serve God. As with much of the book, the scene is painted vividly with characters in the fresco coming to life and being transformed into Iraqi soldiers and families. We can feel Logan's body quake and see the tears streaming down his face.
The just released book is available at InterVarsity Press ($12 in soft cover currently). Retired Army colonel and retired State Department diplomat Ann Wright says of the book, "Following your conscience while in the military can put you at odds with its own 'institutional conscience' and with specific missions and wars overseen by civilian politicians. Logan Mehl-Laituri's journey from combat soldier to conscientious objector to seminary student is a powerful story of recognizing one's conscience and then following it to the remarkable places of witness in our world." Camile Jackson (Duke University's Duke Today) noted Tuesday:
This morning he shared his views in an interview with the Armed Services Radio Network, which broadcasts to military service members and civilians overseas.
He was a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War and helped organize, After the Yellow Ribbon project with Milites Christi, an emerging Divinity School student group that helps churches and military groups "heal the unseen wounds of war."
Jaber Ali (Middle East Confidential) explains, "There are fears that the trend will continue, especially on Friday. Analysts believe that the Shiite pilgrims will be the principal targets of bombings and security is being beefed up around Karbala." Press TV reports that 40,000 security forces will provide security within Karbala and that security forces are also deployed "around the central city."
AFP reports Shi'ite pilgrims "gathered in the central shrine of Karbala to commemorate Imam Mehdi's birth, with children lighting 1,179 candles, representing the number of years since the birth of Shiite Islam's so-called 12th imam." Sammer N. Yacoub (AP) notes the skies of the city of Karbala were filled with 14 police helicopters and all non-security vehicles were banned. Hassoun al-Haffar (AKnews) estimated 4 million pilgrims had visited this week by Thursday alone and explain, "Twelver Shi'a believe that al-Madhi was born in 869 and did not die but rather was hidden by God in 941 and will later emerge with Jesus Christ in order to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world."
There has been violence targeting the pilgrims throughout the week with the worst taking place Tuesday:
AFP observes, "The blast came just hours after near-simultaneous car bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims on the outskirts of the central shrine city of Karbala killed four people." Alsumaria notes of the Karbala bombing that it hit at the popular market where fruits and vegetables are sold, it left 11 dead and forty-five injured (according to police sources) and that millions of Shi'ites are expected to travel through Karbala this week to celebrate the birth of the 12th or Hidden Imam (9th century). Jamal Hashim and Mustafa Sabah (Xinhua) report, "Karbala's twin bombings came as hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims have started to march to the holy city to commemorate the birth of Imam Mahdi, the last of the twelve most revered Shiite's Imams. Authorities in Karbala expect that the number of pilgrims from Iraqi Shiite cities and outside the country, who started to arrive to observe the ritual ahead of its climax date on Thursday and Friday morning in Karbala will exceed five millions."
The political crisis continues in Iraq. As a result, Moqtada al-Sadr gave a major address today at 8:00 pm Baghdad time and it was carried by satellite TV. al-Sadr is a Shi'ite cleric whose followers include 40 MPs in Parliament. He has has had a long and difficult relationship with both the Bush White House and the Barack White House.
All Iraqi News reports he declared that three presidencies should be limited to two terms.and that this is needed to ensure that Iraq does not experience another dictatorship. The three presidencies are the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament. Such a limit would mean Jalal Talabani, current Iraqi President, would be done as would Nouri al-Maliki. Only Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi would be elegible for another term. When the Arab Spring swept through the MidEast in early 2011, Nouri al-Maliki swore that he wouldn't seek a third term. A day later, his spokesperson modified that statement to insist he wouldn't seek a third term if he had not achieved in his second term. Then, almost a year later, his attorney declared there is nothing preventing Nouri from seeking a third term. Moqtada stressed that the Iraqi people need security and that means there needs to be a Minister of Defense, Minister of National Security and Minister of Interior (the article actually says Intelligence but it is Interior and this second article makes that point clear). Nouri was supposed to nominate people to be heads of the security ministries and have them confirmed by the end of December 2010. Instead, Nouri has failed to do so and with violence continuing to rise, that's a serious failure. Moqtada also discussed how Iraqis need electricity they can count on and water they can drink and jobs, they need jobs. Those are three demands Iraqis made when they protested in the streets in February 2011. For those who have forgotten, this is not just when Nouri announced he wouldn't seek a third term but also when he announced that, if Iraqis would give him 100 days, then he would address these issues. Moqtada asked his followers to give Nouri the 100 days. After 100 days, Nouri failed to deliver and pretended as though he'd never made the promises.
In addition, Moqtada spoke about Iraq needing to get along with neighboring countries. Nouri has alienated Turkey -- in fact, Nouri's constant verbal attacks and constant lies about Turkey have resulted in the Turkish government becoming much closer to the Kurdish Regional Government and more and more distant from the Baghdad-based government. He's alienated the Arab neighbors and this was on display during the Arab League Summit. Dropping back to the March 30th snapshot:
There are 22 countries in the Arab League. Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story." That's reality.
And let's deal with reality such as when people talk about things that they don't know s**t about. Social Media Queen Jane Arraf Tweeted with her male followers about the speech:
That second one? If you click "expand" you'll find a man (of course, Twitter's nothing but online dating apparently who ridicules Moqtada's idea about a corruption.
He has to ridicule it because, see, he wrote an 'analysis' that was published today and it turned to s**t the minute Moqtada started speaking. Again, these so-called 'experts' really aren't experts. They don't what they're talking about, I have no idea how our world got so screwed up that these people get to speak.
But did Moqtada say what Jane says he did?
Jane, you should embarrassed and ashamed of yourself.
The fact that you have X number of characters in Twitter is no excuse.
What Moqtada stated about corruption was that it needed to be addressed with a full government assault -- including executive orders, including judicial committees, including Parliament and new bodies that are not about partisanship, ethnicity or ideology.
I'm sorry that someone offered masturbation in text form and it was published today and that their hypothesis about Moqtada -- not "theory," theories can be tested with certain expected results -- turned out to be trash. And if you'd own that, I wouldn't even be mentioning it. I saw that piece of garbage this morning and chose to ignore it. But if you're going to make little jokes implying that Moqtada doesn't know what he's talking about, you're begging for someone to say you're full of s**t.
And Jane Arraf did an awful job in 'reporting.' This was a major speech. We'll be returning to it on Monday. Two Tweets? That's embarrassing. That the second one leaves the wrong impression, distorts what he said, that's bad journalism.
In other political news, Karwan Yusuf (AK News) reports that rumors of Saleh al-Mutlaq replacing Ayad Allawi as the leader of Iraqya have been called "baseless" in a statement Iraqiya sent out which notes that the false rumors are meant to weaken Iraqiya. The rumors never should have had traction. Allawi is Shi'ite. al-Mutlaq is Sunni. Iraqiya is a mixed slate but with the crisis in Iraq having a Shi'ite as a leader gave them a credibility with other blocs that al-Mutlaq wouldn't have. In addition, al-Mutlaq was not allowed to run in 2010 because Nouri's Justice and Accountability Commission was calling him a Ba'athist. (His name was only cleared at the end of 2010.) Saleh al-Mutlaq as a leader could easily be dimissed as he unfairly was in 2010. As we've noted many times before, Nouri's State of Law excells at rumors. Little else.
We haven't covered this but, as usual, State of Law tries to distract. So they've got a 'movement' to question Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi who they have spread rumors about (specifically he allegedly has millions -- over 20 million dollars -- and they want to know where it came from). That they want to distract with. And they may succeed. Nouri has a lot of enablers in the press and certainly in the United States. But you really don't expect to see the always screaming-their-heads-off-about-what-Nouri-just-did-to-them Communist Party rush to prop up Nouri. This is truly a very sad moment but it does explain why the Communist Party is and has been meaningless in Iraqi politics. 'They opposed Saddam Hussein!' Yes, they did. With the same sort of weak-spined opposition they've offered Nouri. They apparently exist solely to mislead the Iraqi people into believing there is a token of opposition in the country.
First off, it's twenty billion, not twenty million, I was wrong. This evening All Iraqi News reported that Osama al-Nujaifi's office has issued a statement calling out the slander and distortions about him and that he may resort to the court to stop malicious slander. All Iraqi News notes he did not identify what the slander was. He may be referring to the twenty billion rumor. He may be referring to something else. State of Law has a made a point to spread one rumor after another about their political rivals.
The last weeks have seen some achievements for Iraq on the world stage. Zakaria Muhammed (Kurdish Globe) reports Ahmed Maeed, whose professional name is Ahmed Rambo, now holds the post of president of the World Amateur Body Building Association branch of Iraq. Muhammed explains:
Majeed, 37, began lifting weights in 1988. He didn't tell his parents who had taken a dim view of the sport, regarding it as alien to Kurdish culture and tradition. Within two years, Majeed had won gold in the Iraqi Bodybuilding Championships in the 75 kilo category.
By this time, he had earned his nickname for resembling Sylvester Stallone and wearing bandanas on his head like the American actor's Rambo character.
Majeed left Iraqi Kurdistan in 1995 to escape the bitter Kurdish civil war, but continued to compete successfully in Germany. He returned in 2004, and led a group of Kurdish bodybuilders to the 2009 Asian Bodybuilding Championships in Thailand.
Rudaw: What do you want to tell Ranya and its women?
Shene: To all women in Kurdistan, not only those in Ranya, I want to say that we are very pretty and smart women. Don't hide that. Step forward. Care about your beauty but also care about your inner self. If you are beautiful inside, then you will look beautiful on the outside as well. Everybody is beautiful.
Rudaw: Do you feel that Kurdish women cannot advance because of tradition? What do you tell parents who do not allow their girls to step forward?
Shene: I want to say I am very proud of my parents because they allow me to do many things. I want to open the road for Kurdish girls because I know that, if the road is opened for them, they will feel proud about their parents and advance.
Rudaw: Have you had any plastic surgery?
Shene: No. There was a plastic surgeon at the contest (judge panel). But I have not had any plastic surgery, and I believe if I'd had even a small amount of surgery, I wouldn't have won.
Al Bawaba observes, "Beauty pageants have been absent from Iraq for decades. During the time of the monarchy, which was overthrown in 1958, they were held in social clubs, especially in the southern port city of Basra."
Going back to the United States, Saturday, Austin, Texas will see a parade. Tara Merrigan (Austin American-Statesman) reports, "The parade, which will start at 9 a.m. at the Congress Avenue Bridge and end at the Capitol, will include the 36th Division Infantry Band from Camp Mabry, a Reserve Officers' Training Corps color guard from Westwood High School, motorcycle clubs, muscle car clubs and a roller derby club. The event will feature veterans from the Iraq War and previous wars." This will be followed by a veterans jobs fair. The following day it's Portsmouth, New Hampshire's turn. Laurenne Ramsdell (Foster's Daily Democrat) notes, "The Welcome Home Parade will proceed from Junkins Avenue onto Pleasant Street, then onto State Street, Wright Avenue, Daniels Street and then through Market Square. The parade will continue onto Congress Street and Fleet Street before it loops back toward Junkins Avenue." This Sunday parade will also be followed by a jobs fair, held in "the lower parking lot at City Hall." These are among the many parades that have been taking place across the country. If you know of one in your area, feel free to note in an e-mail and it will be included here. A parade in Alabama did not go so well recently and it's thought that one of the reasons was lack of awareness that it was taking place.