Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Freepers considered Nick Berg's family "the enemy"

Freepers considered Nick Berg's family "the enemy"

"..Less (sic) we forget. Everyone send this to Rush, Sean, Fox, and everyone you can e-mail this list. Don't stop until everyone has a copy...."

This is how the extreme partisan polarization in this country is rotting our nation from the inside.

Look at this list of people---
Michael Berg, (business name Prometheus Methods highlighted on list) the father of slain Nick Berg, signed a list of those who simply wished to express dissent about the war in which our nation was engaged. Yet, he and his family still contributed directly to the effort to help America to help the Iraqis establish a new democracy.

The Freepers state on this site:
Here is "the enemy"--they have posted their names.

I submit the true enemy of America is the ignorant, filthy polarization in this nation. When the hell are people going to wake up?

Shirin Ebadi speaks at Syracuse University

Shirin Ebadi speaks at Syracuse University

On Religion and Democracy

Hendricks Chapel
Syracuse University
May 10, 2004

The following are my rough notes on a speech given by 2003 Nobel peace-prize winner Shirin Ebadi of Iran..

Shirin Ebadi walked to the podium to a standing ovation. She smiled warmly and slightly bowed several times before her audience of approximately 500 sat down to listen to her hour-long speech, given in her language of Farsi. Her interpreter was Syracuse University Political Science professor Mehrzad Borouherdi.

Madame Ebadi had been introduced by S.U. College of Law dean Hannah Arterian, who prefaced the speech with a story about the subtleties found in this life and the experience of growing up-a child of lawyers. She used a very simple example- her own daughter whose Grandfather said to her: "Clean your plate," and her daughter replying: "It's not a plate, Grandfather. It's a bowl." Subtlety often makes an important and essential difference. Ms. Arterian read comments from a former law student's e-mail regarding the joy upon learning Mme Ebadi, an attorney (of all professions) had won a Nobel Peace prize. She then introduced Mme Ebadi.

Mme Ebadi explained her topic would be 'Religion and Democracy'. Philosophers have long debated the relationship between the two.

There is a certain movement within/between the Islamic states with those who believe humanity is a creation of God. Islamic state-leaders see themselves as sheer maintainers of their society's duties to God. Social rights are not the priority or focus in this movement. This belief and this movement has trans-national reach in the region.

In this movement, yesteryear's intellect is relied upon and modernity suffers as a result. Prophets are given governmental weight and popularly-elected officials can be easily rejected for their perceived failure to maintain societal duties directly related to certain interpretations of Islam. Divine law trumps civil law..period. Divine ordinance trumps parliamentary democracy.

European blueprints for democracy have long been resisted by this movement. 'State religion' weighs heavily... at a sad cost to human rights in a 'religious state'.

There are no names, no headquarters, no leaders in today's movement toward this certain interpretation of Islam...yet it is ingrained in the mind and sensibility of nearly every Muslim.

Mme Ebadi is an avowed Muslim and insists it is a religion of equality. She quoted Mohammed's doctrine of the equality of all believers.

The problem is that today's practice of state religion does not emanate from the true essence of Islam. There is an unwillingness for Islamic states to give an interpretation of Islam toward equality and human rights.

For these reasons, the dominant culture is in need of reform. An understanding and recognition of social realities compatible with the spirit of Islam is needed.

The most important step to achieve this goal is the teaching of the nature of inclusiveness of the Islamic faith itself. Mulims need to learn (and teach) the dynamic spirit of Islam and realize they can accept modernity without the risk of losing this essence.

If education becomes prevalent and citizens learn to press for their rights, religious states will be compelled to respect legal rights and civil law rather than imposing divine law which often reults in an ignorance of human rights. Islamic governments now silence laws they don't like and regard themselves as God's law on earth. This is often nothing more than convenient excuse to silence and intimidate members of their society. Often, for example, they will accuse others of having "wishy-washy" faith in order to intimidate. Being accused of abandoning your faith at a moment's notice will make you very unpopular in these societies. Freedoms are limited by the great fear of being charged with "apostacy" (deserting one's faith) when there is dissention against these authoritarian regimes.

Mme Ebadi believes that Muslims, who comprise one-sixth of the world's population, should connect with the masses by any means available to expose false claims of despotic rulers that the true essence of Islam is represented by their rule. Mme Ebadi especially appealed to the intellectual class to reach the mass audiences so they be made to better understand that the current ruling elite in Iran and other Islamic states are violating the very core of Islamic essence.

Islamic states do not have the key to Paradise.

When it comes to democracy, all people of this world share a common thread. All people in all cultures and societies share the hope for freedom, respect for life, property, and human dignity. War, violence, and terror are not desired nor admired.

Cultural relativism and reactionary tyrants using this relativism to retain political power blinds the cultural masses and leads to violations of what should be all of our common rights as human beings.

Whether we like it or not, there is a globalization of both war and peace. We're in this venture together. If we want peace, we must struggle for peace--together. Partnerships must be consolidated and concern for humanity must transcend national boundaries and religions. We cannot be blind to human violations wherever and whenever they may occur..be it Afghansitan, Palestine, or our very own homelands.

We're all on the deck of the same ship. Every individual damage and/or violation to our sense of humunity endangers all of us. The destiny of all humanity is tied to every single person. We cannot value and enjoy freedoms and rights ourselves when we deprive others of the same freedom and right.

Mostly, we need compassion.

Mme Ebadi appeals to you--be kind to one another. Kindness is the only commodity that doesn't diminish when you spend it.

Those who seek gain in times of war find it advantageous to use Islam as a reason for terror and violence. This is wrong-minded. Think about the Bosnian war and you will see that Muslims did not blame all of Christendom for the atrocities committed against them. It is also erroneous when political opportunists erroneously claim Islamic culture is incompatible with Western culture and values. There has been a lot of blame toward the religion of Islam for acts of terror. Some have claimed that violence is reflective of Muslim values and this is often a way to cause mass-reaction and perpetuate political conflict. This is not so, Mme Ebadi said. Islam is not a religion of violence and terror should never be attributed to Islam. In the same manner, Israel's rejection of many U.N. resolutions should never be equated with Judiasm.

Actions of the masses should never be confused with the message of God. We must learn to distinguish humanity's mistakes and recognize the nature of the cultures from which those mistakes stem. Culture and civilizations do not need to be in conflict with one another. We've lived by each other's sides for ages. We must not forget our shared values and we cannot allow a civilization-clash to be used as a justification for war.

Mme Ebadi ended with an extension to all people of love and affection.

There was a question and answer session, which I will write about in another post.

Reference: Mme. Ebadi's Nobel-prize speech is [here].

UPDATE: Newsday-Nobel winner criticizes U.S. invasion of Iraq, prisoner abuse

Abu Ghraib: What did Bush know--and when did he know it?

Abu Ghraib: What did Bush know--and when did he know it?

Why is Donald Rumsfeld the cut-off when we go up the chain? Where do we consider 'the buck' really stops? Is an investigation of President Bush (and VP Cheney) necessary? Given the extreme circumstances of Abu Ghraib, I believe we should leave all possibilities open.

At Buzzflash, Maureen Farrell asks some important questions:

...though it's tempting to cling to the narratives that make us feel good, in the end, reality catches up with us any way. Right about the time William Kristol and Lawrence Kaplan were promising that America would "demonstrate to all the compatibility of its interests and ideals" and make the world "a safer and more just place," for example, the Guardian's George Monibot was saying 'It will end in disaster.' "The United States, like Israel, will discover that occupation is bloody and, ultimately, unsustainable," he wrote. "Its troops will be harassed by snipers and suicide bombers, and its response to them will alienate even the people who were grateful for the overthrow of Saddam." [Guardian]

So at this juncture, believing in the Bush administration means embracing incompetence.
And while the Taguba report reportedly went unread by the Pentagon brass, are we to believe that the Red Cross report on torture delivered to the Bush administration earlier this year did, too? And though Paul Bremer was reportedly told of the abuse in November [Guardian] are we expected to believe that CNN knew about the abuse at Abu Ghraib in January [CNN] while the president remained "out of the loop?" For God's sake, if the President had tuned into Wolf Blitzer's May 2, 2004 interview with Seymour Hersh, perhaps he would have learned about the abuse and not said, a mere one day later, "Because we acted, torture rooms are closed [and] rape rooms no longer exist. . . in Iraq." [WhiteHouse.gov]

See Paul Krugman's op-ed from today's N.Y. Times titled Just Trust Us. We cannot operate or depend on trust alone when it comes to this administration. Not anymore. Congress needs to end partisanship and save our nation's reputation before it's too late.

The Army Times has an editorial in its May 17th edition that calls for going straight to the top.

The Daily Mislead has some questions for the White House about their ignoring so many pleas to address this prison situation far earlier.

From Harvey Wasserman/Free Press-Independent News Media-- Bush the torturer must leave office:

...like My Lai, atrocious behavior in Iraq comes straight from the top. Bush's contempt for international law, including the Geneva Accords, has been legend. His stirring praise for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld must be taken at face value. If Rumsfeld is doing a "superb job," it's because Rumsfeld is doing superbly what George W. Bush wants done.

What Bush did as governor he now does as president. It has nothing to do with stopping terrorism or protecting the United States. It's not the product of a few "bad" or poorly trained soldiers. It's not about a wayward Secretary of Defense and his out-of-control military apparatus. The inevitable reaction that's now come with this first beheading has been provoked by an administration engaged in global drunk driving.

This ghastly spiral of brutality is all about George W. Bush and who he really is. And since he is doing this in the name of the United States, it is ultimately about us, and what we do about him.

I've read the story of Nick Berg

I've read the story of Nick Berg

click photo to learn a bit about Nick's life

The story is told in all its cold detail.

These are only my first impressions.

It's nearly too much to bear.

My heart goes out to Nick's family...I have a lot of questions about the circumstances which prevented his return home at a time when he desired to come home.

Because of a savage thirst for revenge, Nick won't be home at all.

Michael, Suzanne, David, Sarah--I am so, so sorry.

This war is nothing but madness and it needs to end.

The article says the people who did the beheading praised God in the name of Islam. That, my friends, is horse-shit, plain and simple. Killings in the name of God have nothing to do with the essence of Islam. The killing occurred in the presence of war, anger, vengeance, and blood-lust. I'm sick of criminals using the name of God to kill in cold blood.

All good people of the world--Islamic, Christian, Hindu, atheist-- need to consolidate and speak out against any who kill for shrouded politics in the holy name of God.

Iraq is over, people. All we've done from the get-go is to send an army to inflame the godless who act with violence in the false name of their state-God.

I'm afraid all we have left to reap in Iraq is a whirlwind of godless blood-vengeance.

Cultural reform cannot happen at the drop of a bomb, an occupation, or a new-government puppet show.

It cannot happen that way.

Nick is gone because of this folly and it makes me sick.


May 7th AP article about Nick:

The Associated Press [LINK]

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Nick Berg was on his way out of Iraq. He had been released from the prison where he had been held for 13 days by Iraqi police for reasons he said he did not know. He had made his way from Mosul to his Baghdad hotel. He was finished with being an independent civilian contractor and was coming home to West Chester.

That was April 9. A month later, Berg's parents, Michael and Suzanne, still haven't heard from him. They've gone from concerned to frantic.

"Our hopes are that he's still in hiding or en route and traveling in a very slow manner," Michael Berg said.

A spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq who tracks the number of civilians missing in that country was unavailable for comment. But in mid-April, coalition spokesman Dan Senor said during a news briefing in Baghdad that about 40 people from 12 countries were missing and presumed hostages.

Nick Berg, 26, owns a business called Prometheus Methods Tower Service Inc. He climbs communications towers to inspect the antennas, the electrical connections and the structure. He first went to Iraq on Dec. 21.

He stayed until Feb. 1, making contact with a company that indicated there would likely be work for him later. But he returned on March 14 and there was no work, so he began traveling. He usually called home once a day and e-mailed several times; Michael Berg is his business manager, and they needed to stay in touch.

They spoke on March 24, and Nick Berg told his parents he was coming home on March 30. Then the communications stopped, and he wasn't on the plane on March 30.

When FBI agents arrived at the Berg's West Chester home on March 31, they were relieved to know their son was alive, but in jail. The agents questioned them about various details that only they and their son would know about.

Jerri Williams, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia FBI office, said the agency was "asked to interview the parents regarding Mr. Berg's purpose in Iraq."

On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq.

The next day, April 6, Nick Berg was released. He told his parents he had been riding in a taxi on March 24 when he was arrested by Iraqi officials at a checkpoint in Mosul. He told his parents he had not been mistreated.

Nick Berg said he would come home through Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait. But by then, hostilities in Iraq had escalated, and Michael Berg said they have not heard from their son since.

The Bergs have hounded the State Department, the FBI and the International Committee of the Red Cross, seeking information. Michael Berg said the State Department sent an official to Nick Berg's hotel, where an employee told the official they had not heard of him.

The Bergs hired a private investigator, who talked to an American hotel guest who said he remembered Nick Berg.

Sometimes, they tell themselves their son "is a resourceful fellow who can take care of himself," Michael Berg said.

"Other times we think perhaps he was dead on April 10," he said. "My worst fear is that I'll never hear anything." [Philly.com LINK}

Boston Globe
L.A. Times
Globe and Mail

UPDATE: "I don't think this administration is committed to democracy."
--Michael Berg, father of Nick


Nick had a great heart. He had previously traveled to Ghana, where his family said he had purchased a $900 brick-making press for a poor village.

AP: Reaction to Nick's death

Pennsylvania community shocked by death of `real nice kid'

*Note--If you're looking for the video of Nick's death, don't expect to find it here. I won't sink that low. Sorry. I'm sure there's someone else..some ghoulish soul out there who will lack the taste, the compassion and the conscience.*

Senator Inhofe makes a political show of Taguba hearing

Senator Inhofe makes a disgusting political show at Taguba hearing

James Inhofe is equivocating and rationalizing away the violation of human rights at Abu Ghraib at the Taguba-Congressional hearing as I'm writing this post. He actually just suggested that these Iraqis deserved the treatment they got in these prisons. What a total ass he's making of himself! He sounds like a FOX News propagandist, for Pete's sake. He's whining about the politicization of this Abu Ghraib torture-story, but I have to tell you-- I've never seen such blatant politicization myself. It's sad.. really sad. Inhofe's outraged at "do-gooders" looking for violations of human rights in our military prisons. He reminds us of violations Iraqis have committed against our soldiers. (As if we didn't know).

I remind Inhofe that we are supposed to be BETTER than savages. He seems perfectly willing to forget that we are supposed to be a civil people.

Inhofe is the same fundamentalist kook who babbled, just after 9-11, "One of the reason I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israelis, and demand it with pressure, not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorist strikes that have been launched against them."

Inhofe is also the same ugly partisan who refused to support his President or give him the benefit of any confidence during the Kosovo crisis, stating in April, 1999: "The best way we can support our troops is to keep them out of Kosovo, out of a protracted war that, in my opinion, we are not going to end up winning."

We "won" the hearts and minds in Kosovo. Inhofe was dead-wrong.

Look at what Inhofe is supporting now...the damned hypocrite. I do not suffer fools lightly and I must call them out when I see them. Senator Inhofe is a fool. Our military needs to get out of Iraq. We need an exit strategy, not a foolish political display for all the nation to see.

Knowing Inhofe's making American law is a very frightening thought.

Update: 5/ 12- Walter Shapiro writes on the subject.