Monday, July 31, 2006

Riding the bus

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Chaos and violence continue today, Monday, August 31, 2006.
CNN reports that last week alone: "at least 200 Iraqis were reported to be killed across the country." This as the refugee numbers increase, shootings and bombings continue and the war drags on. On July 26, a mass kidnapping took place in Baghdad -- 17 kidnapped from an apartment complex and the paper of record in the US took a pass. Yesterday, another mass kidnapping took place (at least 23) and it wasn't news to the paper of record. Today, another mass kidnapping took place, in Baghdad, 26 people. Will it get the attention it should merit? Wait and see. Meanwhile James Hider (Times of London) puts the death toll at 27 dead throughout Iraq today.
James Hider (Times of London) reports that a bomb in Mosul claimed the lives of four Iraqi soliders. The AP notes a roadside bomb in Baghdad killed a police officer. CNN notes a total of three bombs went off in Baghdad today and, in addition to the police officer already noted, the bombs claimed two Iraqi soldiers and another police officer while eight civilians were wounded (Baghdad) by mortar rounds -- also notes a car bomb in Smarra that resulted in two people dead and 17 wounded.
AFP reports that "Brigadier Fakhri Jamil of the Iraqi government intelligence service" was shot dead in Baghdad while, in Amara, "Bassim Abdulhamid, an employee of the Sunni endowment which manages Sunni mosques" was shot dead at his home. The AP notes "two vendors selling cooking-gas cylinders" shot dead in Baghdad; and one "municipal street sweeper" shot dead (two more injured) also in Baghdad. Reuters notes the shooting death, in Baghdad, of "Maad Jihad, an advisor to the health minister".
AP notes three corpses discovered in Baghdad and that yesterday an attorney and four police officers were beheaded in Hawija. CNN notes on the first three: "All had been shot in the head and showed signs of being brutalized." AFP notes that a "bullet-scarred corpse" was discovered in Suwira and the corpse a "gunshot victim" in Husseinya.
Andy Mosher and Saad al-Izzi (Washington Post) reported on Sunday's kidnapping, near Baghdad, of "at least 23 Iraqis" who were then "lined . . . up and shot them all". That was Sunday. Today, the AFP reports another mass kidnapping by "[a]rmed men in Iraq national police uniforms" using "15 jeeps of a kind used by police" who went into "the commerical heart of Baghdad and led away the head of the chamber of commerce and 20 co-workers" as well as "15 workers from a nearby office" accounting for a total of 26 people kidnapped. Since Mosher and al-Izzi are among the few to report on Sunday's kidnapping, let's be clear that the latest kidnapping (the 26) happened today (and happened in Baghdad) -- two different incidents. A witness tells Reuters: "I was on the first floor of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and they took all the men downstairs. They were in camouflage army uniforms. They handcuffed the man and blindfolded them. Me and five others were left behind because all the cars were full." James Hider (Times of London) describes the location the kidnapping took place as "one of the safest parts of Baghdad today" and notes that the area "is controlled by the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which forms the main party in the Shia governing coalition. Locals say almost nothing moves in the area without the Badr militiamen knowing about it."
As rumors continue to swirl around the Iraq police forces,
Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reports that Jawad Bolani is pledging to "clean up the country's law enforcement ranks, widely viewed as a primary cause of ongoing violence and instability." How much he could or could not do is in doubt for any number of reasons but primarily (not noted in the report) due to the fact that he's currently the most speculated of the names that Nouri al-Maliki may be about to replace. AP reports that there are "many" calls for Bolani to be replaced.
In other news,
Michael Georgy (Reuters) reports that "in the last 10 days alone" the amount of refugees in Iraq has increased by 20,000 bringing the official total to 182,154. Georgy notes: "The crisis is likely to be far graver because ministry figures include only those who formally ask for aid within the country, some of them living in tented camps. By excluding thousands fleeing abroad or quietly seeking refuge with relatives, officials accept the data is an underestimate." This as IRIN notes that refugees who fled to Lebanon from Iraq earlier in the month are now in "Baghdad and urgently need assistance" quoting Diyar Salushi (senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) saying: "They have lost everything they had and now depend on assistance from relatives, most of whom are living in poverty."
Meanwhile, from the land of fantasy and myth, it's time for another wave of Operation Happy Talk.
Aaron Glatz (Free Speech Radio News) reports on the ad campaign and coordinated visits of Kurdish officials by the firm Russom Marsh & Rogers -- a firm previously behind the spin campaigns known as "Stop Michael Moore Campaign" and "Move America Forward." This wave of Happy Talk, as reported by Bill Berkowitz (, by the same Russo Marsh and Rogers responsible for the so-called "Truth Tour" which was "a seven-day carefully calibrated trip to Iraq by a group of conservative talk-show hosts . . . to spread the 'good' news about what is happening on the ground." Speaking with Aaron Glantz, John Stauber reminded that, although US tax dollars are not supposed to be used to propagandize within the US, "it has happened with the Rendon Group's CIA-funded creation of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress."
In England, an inquiry into the death of Steve Roberts has completed its findings.
Reuters notes Roberts died ("accidentally shot by his own troops) while manning a checkpoint during the 2003 invasion"). England's Ministry of Defense notes the death occuring "on the night of 23-24 March 2003" and notes the death occuring when troops fired in order to protect Roberts from a man who "continued to advance and attack Sgt Roberts" bu mistakenly hitting Roberts. A redacted copy of the report will be reported (at the Ministry of Defense website) but currently Reuters reports that one finding of the inquiry is that Roberts died because he wasn't wearing body armour which he had been "ordered to give up . . . two days before the invasion of Iraq" and quotes from this from the report: "Had Sergeant Roberts been wearing correctly fitting and fitted ECBA (as originally issued to him and then withdrawn on 20 March 2003) when this incident unfolded, he would not have been fatally injured by the rounds that struck him". And in Australia, Jake Kovco's former roommates returned from Baghdad on Friday in preparation of speaking to the inquiry into Kovco's April 21st death and giving DNA to establish where the additional DNA (other than Kovco's) on the gun is their own.
In peace news,
Erin Solaro (Christian Science Monitors) looks at the case of Suzanne Swift who went AWOL "rather than return to Iraq" and has based "her refusal to return to Iraq . . . upon the harrassment and assault she suffered on her first deployment." Solaro notes her own observations with regards to the US military: "in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, where men kept an informal guard over the only all-female shower at Camp Junction City. I saw it in Afghanistan, where an infantryman warned me that he and his buddies had heard a serial rapist was operating down at Bagram Air Field and they hoped to find him. And I saw it in America, where a National Guard colonel who had problems with male troops from another (badly led) unit intruding upon his female troops in their shower told those soldiers, 'You are armed. Buttstroke these men, and I will back you.'"
CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast is on day 28 with over 4,350 participants from around the world. As noted Saturday, five members of Iraq's parliament have responded to news of the fast by arranging a meeting in Jordan with members of CODEPINK. Last Friday, Medea Benjamin and four other members were arrested in front of the White House as they protested Tony Blair's visits.
Troops Home Fast continues (at least until September 21st and Diane Wilson has stated she intends to maintain the fast until the troops come home) -- it's an ongoing fast so if you've wanted to participate but didn't when it started July 4th, you can grab a day at any point. Some are electing to do a one-day fast each week. Betty Jespersen (Blethen Maine Newspapers) reports on Julieanne Reed "among 14 or so men and women who have publicly committed to join a national fast for peace." Jespersen quotes Reed on the topic of activism: "I felt in the past I didn't know enough to take a stand. Now I know I want the war to stop" and also notes Craigen Healy stating: "Depriving yourself of eating for 24 hours reminds you of the suffering of the Iraqi people. There may be reasons to go to war but what is going on over there is counter-productive. It is making us more unsafe. We have unleashed the terror"; and Lee Sharkey declaring: "Fasting for me brings the cost of the war home on a very personal level. I want to raise this question: Is 'life as usual' an acceptable stance while this immoral, illegal and incalculably costly war continues?"
Reflecting on last week's events,
Cindy Sheehan writes (Truth Out): "I saw the Angel of Death in the skin of Donald Rumsfeld say, while he was busy rushing in or out of the Pentagon (it doesn't really matter), that it is 'unfortunate' that the soldiers have to remain in Iraq. I think it is unfortunate for our troops and for the innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan that Donald Rumsfeld has to remain as the Secretary of War." Also note that: "The Camp Casey dates have been changed to accomodate George's schedule and will be August 6th to September 2nd. Please go to the Gold Star Families for Peace web site to stay posted on future exciting developments for Camp Casey III this summer."

That's Iraq. It's not getting better. People need to stop kidding. "Ruth's Report" covers this really well. She's got her new format going on so check it out -- I think you're in for a real treat.

So what am I talking about tonight? I had some questions about why I ride the bus and was honestly surprised anyone needed to ask. But here we go.

Yes, I have a license. Yes, I have a car. No, I'm not like "the black guy in Clueless" and scared of the freeway.

As I started thinking more and more about the war and thinking more and more about the world around us, I just felt like I couldn't keep driving everywhere. It just felt like I was hurting the environment, propping up the war and a great deal more. So I asked myself what I could do? The only bus I ever rode before was the school bus and the first thing I'd do, if I ran the world (besides have all the girls -- LL Cool J) would be to make the bus schedules easier. I found that so confusing.

I told myself, I'd start riding the bus and I didn't. I couldn't make sense of the bus schedules. Finally, I took a cab to work to force myself to take the bus home. I found a guy at work who rode them and he broke down the easiest way for me to get home on the bus. Then he told me how to get back to work. I was late the next day because I grabbed the wrong bus but, slowly, I got used to it. Now I can go one of three ways home.

But I probably spent at least a week telling myself I was riding the bus before I did. The schedules were just too confusing for me. It's one little thing I can do that maybe helps a little.
I'm always looking for those sort of things. Because I think that if I help a little here and help a little there, I'll leave the earth less damaged. Not "better off" because I think we pretty much have made it worse off.

There were a lot of "I would never ride the bus" comments. I hope you'll try to do something.

It's actually not that bad most of the time. There are a lot of interesting people (some good interesting and some bad interesting -- it's life) who ride and there are times when I can just hop and read.

I was a road rager and everyone told me that but I thought they were full of it and ignored them. Riding the bus really drove that home for me. At first, I was thinking, "Get off! Get off! Why are you sitting when the bus has stopped and this is your stop? Quit talking to the person next to you and get off!"

Or I'd be thinking, "The light is green! Green! Go!"

It was probably a month before I chilled. Then it hit me that I really had been driving like that when I ran my aunt somewhere one weekend. I was her last choice, because of my reputation. But she even noticed the difference. I was always angry behind the wheel, always griping, always slamming the brake, hitting the pedal.

So it's probably been better for me, stress wise, blood pressure wise, to ride the bus. Taught me to not be in such a rush.

I really don't mind it now. It means leaving a little earlier. But I can relax and don't arrive at work all tense and thinking, "Get out of my way, let me get to my desk."

And along with that learning/realization, I've cut down on my own use of fossil fuels. And I'm not griping about the fact that the parking spot I wanted is taken or having to pay to park if the garage is full (and it's almost always full).

I get to hear what people are thinking. Today this one older woman, probably late 60s, was arguing with some man about the need to find someone. "I don't need hugs! I haven't had a hug in nine years! I don't need some man to spend all my money!" It was interesting to hear and watch that. What did I learn from it? I don't know. But I know I'd never hear someone like her or a lot of other people if I was in my car. I listen in when people are talking about the war and I hear a lot of people saying we need to bring the troops home. So it's interesting. Give the bus a ride and you can get your own survey going.

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