20 June, 2007


Where do your thoughts turn in days like these? How does a thinking person attempt to gather their thoughts in a world like ours? I keep trying to write something cohesive about the things that have grabbed my attention over the past week; trying to make sense of things or to find some way for us to move beyond this chaos. I am failing miserably.

Who are we as a species that some of us, any of us, can, with not a shred of remorse or hesitation, tether a child to a bed, naked, sell his food in the market, and leave him to starve? And what of those who knew and did nothing to stop it? The appalling condition of 24 boys miraculously, thankfully found in that orphanage in Baghdad are a stain on our entire species because this is how the world treats its children more often than not. But remember this was an Iraqi government-run orphanage; the same Iraq government backed by the U.S. PM Maliki promised an investigation, but the Iraqi Labor and Social Affairs Minister also had something to say about the horror story on Wednesday - he claimed the boys were perfectly healthy and the report was a fabrication. I would ask that the Minister tell it to these boys himself.
(photos: CBS News)

And, how dare a violently misguided -to put it mildly- group of cowards dare to talk about "morals" in the same breath as they threaten murder, disfigurement, and intimidation? "There should be no compulsion in religion." What part of NO did the members of the so-called Swords of Truth not understand? I have never understood the impulse on any faction's part to murder journalists. I have tried to grasp how any side might believe they would benefit from the loss of the countless voices that die with a journalist; the loss of their ongoing personal story and the stories of others they will never have an opportunity to tell. And there is something especially sickening about recent murders of and threats against female journalists and media workers, such as the murders of Sahar Hussein al-Haydari in Iraq, Zakia Zaki and Shokiba Sanga Amaaj in Afghanistan, and the violent threats made against female journalists and broadcasters in Gaza. Ms. Zaki was murdered while sleeping with her young children. Though I can only write, from this easy, safe and infuriating distance, about the horrors these brave women face, I stand solidly with them in the face of such madness.

The U.N./UNHCR declared June 20th World Refugee Day. There is not much cause for celebration. According to an ABC News report, 1 in 10 Iraqis now live outside Iraq. With nearly equal numbers of Iraqis displaced internally and externally (1.9mil. and 2mil - UNHCR). Of those combined numbers, 55% are under the age of 12. The effects on the wider region and the younger generation remain to be seen. "People ask me if I am Muslim," a Turkish friend in Damascus told me in December, "that's normal. But now, when I say I am, they are quick to ask 'Shi'a, Sunni, Alaouite, Alavi....' They didn't used to do that." I don't believe we can fathom what ripples radiate from the things we are seeing today. Global Voices has a good wrap-up from the blogosphere, including some important video from the Australian SBS program Dateline. "As of June 20 – World Refugee Day – the United States had resettled only 272 Iraqi refugees since October 2005." This country can do more. Even the U.S. government's goal of 7,000 Iraqis resettled by the end of 2007 is unimpressive. Sweden resettled just over 9,000 Iraqis alone last year. As with so much else related to this war, Iraqis and other people I spoke to in the region are paying attention to this ongoing story and they will not forget it anytime soon.

Let's not forget the Palestinians at the Erez crossing. The Palestinians who remain in limbo on the Iraqi border. The Palestinian non-combatants who remain in Nahr al-Bared and those who are refugees from their refugee camp.

And what about our refugees here in the U.S.: those scattered to the winds by Katrina, or the economic refugees from a broken world economy who some call "illegal"?

An eye for an eye has turned into a mosque for a mosque; both senseless, horrific, and unwinable tactics. Food prices rise, standards of living slip, and the future becomes uncertain whether you live in Damascus or Dallas. We here in the U.S. complain about the price of gas when we should be shouting for alternatives to our cars and our obsessions with a society that builds upon and feeds sprawl. I don't pretend to have all the answers, and I am well aware of how bad things are. I am sick of simply talking about how bad things are or how horrible Bush is. I am genuinely interested in sitting and talking - not yelling, not demanding, not hiding behind dogma - and actually figuring out a better way. No more wallowing. We have to get down to work for change. It is no longer a matter of choice.


(Thanks to Golaniya for her post on the Iraqi orphans - the first I'd heard about them.)

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