Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iraq is the real outrage

Recently a "God Bless America" poster was removed from the Lompoc Post Office after our local atheist objected to its presence and asked that it be taken down. As a result, numerous letters have been written to the paper objecting to its removal. Below is my letter to the editor regarding this matter.


I watch in amazement as letters pour in day after day about the controversy concerning a poster, or lack of it, in our local post office.

If someone didn't know better, they would think Mr. Hughes has committed a crime against humanity.

I find it fascinating and extremely disturbing that this is the thing that catapults our citizenry into standing up and taking action. I ask you why something so ridiculous as a poster can cause such outrage, when every day innocent men, women and children are dying in an illegal, immoral war of aggression perpetrated by our current administration?

In the last three years, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives have been lost, nearly three thousand of our own military men and women have died, and a sovereign nation was destroyed and is now being occupied by American forces, costing us millions of dollars every month, while our nation crumbles beneath our very feet.

Where is the outrage concerning this? Why aren't letters pouring in about these crimes against humanity? What is wrong with us that something as petty as a poster can overshadow the outrageous reality of an unnecessary war waged in our names and funded by our tax dollars, which only benefits the military/industrial complex to fulfill the demented vision of the neocons' New American Century?

Are we as a nation so fragile that we cannot speak the truth, that we can only be motivated by trivial matters? Perhaps it is easier to focus on whether God blesses America than to admit that we were lied to in order to wage a war of aggression, which is the ultimate crime against humanity. Perhaps it is easier for us to sleep at night if we are reminded on a daily basis that God is on our side, while we annihilate our fellow brethren in the Middle East for purely immoral reasons.

I think a new poster should be erected in our post office, it's simple statement, “God have mercy on us all.” Sorry, Matt, I don't mean to offend you.

Mary AlKhaja

Lompoc Coalition for Peace

and Justice

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Calculating the dead in Iraq

Documenting the number killed in a war zone is “hard work.” It takes something called a large scale mortality study. Only one has been done in Iraq, published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, and released two days before the 2004 election. It did not get much press coverage, partly because of its timing drew suspicions of partisanship. Also, the figure was much larger than other estimates at the time, but the more I learn about the study, the more likely it is that 100,000 was the best estimate, and if anything, low. The study was done by a team of public health researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Columbia University School of Nursing, and the College of Medicine at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Dr. Roberts, the lead author, has testified before congress and is a recognized world expert in counting war dead. His Congo study found 1.7 million civilians killed, a figure cited by Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Tony Blair before Parliament. He has also done surveys in Burundi, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Most of the Iraq survey team were medical doctors. To Dr. Roberts, Iraq was interesting since the US claimed to have taken unprecedented measures to avoid civilian casualties, with 2/3 of the bombs dropped being precision guided. The researchers knew though, from past experience, that it isn’t bombs and bullets that kill most people in war, but the destruction of basic services that leads to disease. To begin, the team used the latest census to map the entire Iraqi population. A random number generator was used to pick 33 points on that map, in small towns and large cities. They randomly picked a GPS coordinate within each community and surveyed the nearest 30 houses to that point. The study surveyed 7,868 people in 988 households for births and deaths before and after the invasion. Election polls use a similar method of sampling and are rarely more than 10% off. The study yielded a conservative estimate of 98,000 excess deaths in the 18 months after the invasion compared to the 15 months before. This estimate did not include Fallujah, a city the size of Cleveland that had been destroyed as a lesson to the resistance, for their killing of 4 US mercenaries. Although Fallujah was randomly chosen, its death rate was so high it was omitted. As data was collected, Dr. Roberts was shocked to see, for the first time in any of his surveys, more deaths from bullets and bombs than from disease. The study showed most people died from coalition attacks and most of those were women and children. But surprisingly it wasn’t soldiers running amuck. Most of the deaths were caused by US "helicopter gun ships, rockets, or other forms of aerial weaponry." There are particulars to this study that indicate its estimate was low. Omitting Fallujah meant excluding all of Anbar province, Ramadi and areas near the Syrian border. Najaf and Sadr City were also excluded due to random chance. These areas have been the main sites of furious fighting and US bombing in Iraq. Meanwhile, the 2 Kurdish provinces, where no fighting occurred, were included. Since 2004, things have worsened. In August, 2005, Robert Fisk reported being shown the computer at the main Baghdad morgue, which is prohibited by the US installed government. It showed 1,100 Iraqis dead in Baghdad alone in just July. In a February, 2006 update to the Lancet study, Dr. Roberts estimated 300,000 Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion. This is supported by Dahr Jamail’s April 12, 2006 interview with a Baghdad morgue employee who said, “The average (number of bodies they receive) is probably over 85” a day. As the US transitions to the “Salvador Option” of supporting death squads and relying on greater airpower to try and decrease US casualties, Iraqis will continue to die in greater numbers.

Jim Silva
Lompoc Coalition for Peace and Justice

Saturday, March 04, 2006

International Women's Day

Wednesday, March 8th is International Women's Day. The theme for 2006 is "Women in decision-making: meeting challenges, creating change." Please join women and their families at Sugar Magnolia's in Lompoc on Wednesday, March 8th from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm to meet other women in your community over food and drink and to converse about issues relating to current government policies and how they affect women worldwide. This gathering will be hosted by the Lompoc Coalition for Peace and Justice, is free to the public and made possible by funding from the Fund for Santa Barbara. If you plan on joining us please RSVP at 736-5459 by Monday, March 6, 2006. I hope to see you there.

In peace,
Mary AlKhaja

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy New Year and hope that you had a wonderful holiday season. With 2006 upon us I would also like to extend an invitation to you all to become more involved in the Lompoc Coalition for Peace and Justice. Whether it is dedicating a few hours a month to attend a planning meeting, volunteering your talents to help us create and produce meaningful events in our community, or just being present at these events, I encourage you to consider taking an active role in promoting peace and justice in the coming year.

LCPJ just received a generous grant from the Fund for Santa Barbara and we look forward to utilizing these funds to continue our ongoing efforts to educate and inform the citizens of the Central Coast about peace and social justice issues. It is only through education and dialogue that I believe these goals can be achieved, so it is my hope to continue our "Films and Forums" series by bringing outstanding personalities and informative documentaries to this community. We welcome any ideas or suggestions you may have about ways to make future forums more successful, about specific topics you are interested in learning more about, as well as ways to help our group outreach to more people in order to increase our membership.

Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support and encouragement over the past three years. I am so honored to be a part of this organization and I am incredibly grateful for having so many wonderful people come into my life as a result of this project. I am also so proud of the outstanding events that we have produced thus far, and I thank you all for making them so successful and fulfilling through your hard work, your talents, your energy, and your dedication and commitment to peace.

I have come to the realization that peace begins with each of us...that creating a more peaceful world begins with creating a more peaceful self. This is my New Year's resolution for 2006 and I hope that you might consider it to be yours. Peace is possible if you can imagine it and then make it your reality.

If you would like more information about LCPJ call 736-5459 or email lompocpeace@yahoo.com.

In peace,
Mary AlKhaja

Sunday, December 18, 2005

American Exceptionalism


American exceptionalism, the belief that America is the best, is such a part of our lives that it goes unnoticed. Once aware of it, however, you hear it shaping the views of liberals and conservatives alike, from leaders in Washington, DC., to commentators in the Lompoc Record.
For example, an English Language student once corrected me for using “America” and “Americans” to refer to the US and US citizens only. Being from Latin America, she was as American as I. Though polite, she clearly resented my self-absorbed disregard of her equal existence on this continent.
One danger of US exceptionalism is that it blinds us to reality. Just as an arrogant individual, who cannot acknowledge his mistakes, will repeat them, so it is with countries. Neocons refuse to admit Vietnam was a mistake so now we’re in Iraq. The quotes from military commanders about “liberation” and “staying the course”, the torture, even the Fallujah atrocities, are all replays of the British disaster there in 1920.
Another danger in believing your country is superior is that it leads to unquestioning, religious patriotism, which is easily manipulated by government propaganda, as we have seen since 9-11. It can lead citizens into self-destructive behaviors, such as a “crusade” (Bush’s word) in the Middle East, or the “Patriot” Acts.
It can lead to a view that US corporations have a right to other people’s resources.
The worst result of US exceptionalism is a rejection of news that doesn‘t fit that world view, making one blind to obvious hypocrisy. Here are some examples:
This administration talks of protecting our liberty while they ram through the Patriot Acts that allow military spying on us and take away our right to challenge our arrest in court or even know the charge. The false claim that Iraq has WMDs is sufficient to bomb it into the Stone Age and invade, never mind that we have 18,500 nuclear warheads and are radiating the Middle East forever with “depleted” uranium dust.
Bush professes we stand for justice at the same time his goons are secretly whisking hundreds of people to old Soviet prisons, or other secret locations to be tortured; not to mention jamming bloody, oversized feeding tubes, unwashed from one prisoner to another, repeatedly down the noses of hunger strikers who have been abused for 4 years without charge at Guantanamo.
Is the US exceptional in supporting democracy? It’s helpful to realize we were founded and expanded West on a policy of Indian genocide. States, including California, with federal funding, offered bounties for Indian scalps. As we expanded into Latin America and the Pacific, the Filipinos lost 200,000 lives struggling for independence, and other national movements were repeatedly, violently suppressed.
After WWII the CIA became more important. Read their own documents on installing the Shah of Iran, or Pinochett in Chile, or how Saddam was a CIA asset for years and how we supplied him with weapons and long lists of people to exterminate.
A UN investigation found Reagan-assisted death squads responsible for 90% of the atrocities in El Salvador’s civil war. This was true throughout Latin America. Today, Rumsfeld and Cheney have adopted the “Salvador Option” in Iraq where death squads are rampant and well funded.
How exceptional are we otherwise? We are ranked 68th in the world in literacy. We spend more than anyone on healthcare but we are 37th in performance. We were 8th for Civil/Political Liberties, before the “Patriot” Act. We rank 15th for the quality of our democratic institutions behind Mongolia and Poland. We are 7th in economic freedom behind Estonia, and that’s according to the right wing Heritage Foundation.
Our military spending is exceptional however, - larger than the next 14 countries combined - approximately the same as all other countries combined!
We could be #1 in all the good things but I guess it takes a really big military to “spread democracy.”

Jim Silva
Lompoc Coalition for Peace and Justice

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Putting The Peace Movement In Perspective

For those of you who wish to spend your time minimalizing, degrading and demoralizing the peace movement I have one thing to say to you. More power to you. I guess if my mind was saturated with shameless propaganda, manipulated into believing that hatred and violence were acceptable concepts to support, and shrouded in such fear that the idea of waging death and destruction on my fellow human beings was somehow a mature and appropriate means of conflict resolution, I too would have to find a way to belittle those who think differently than I. I would have to make them my opponents and attack their characters, motives and actions. How else could I live with myself and maintain my sanity?

I can't imagine how desperate I would become and to what measures I would have to stoop, if truth and human decency were absent from my thought process on a daily basis. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I supported a foreign policy that is destroying the lives and property of citizens of this world everyday in the name of freedom and democracy, and turned out to be based on a pack of lies perpetrated by war criminals who I endorsed and brought to power. I don't think that I could bear the shame.

And it couldn't be more clear how desperate and shameful the warmongers and their supporters have become then by their actions today in Washington DC. At this point they are so threatened by the peace movement that they felt the need to arrest one of it's greatest proponents, Cindy Sheehan. Her crime...being a grieving mother who had the audacity to demand an audience with her commander in chief. The nerve. How dare she. To think that she would be so bold as to attempt to hold accountable and demand answers from those responsible for the needless and senseless death of her precious child. Who does she think she is?

Well guess what? She is me and the millions upon millions of human beings on this planet who work for and believe in peace. Peace is not just the absence of violence. It is a way of life. It is a way of being. It is a way of coexisting on a planet filled with diverse cultures made up of unique human beings. It is understanding that we are all interconnected, that each human life is of value, and that no one race or country is superior to another or has the right to impose their way of thinking or way of life upon others, especially by force.

It is tolerance, it is accepting that which is different, it is being mature and responsible. It is treating others as we expect to be treated. It is conducting ourselves humanely, decently, morally and ethically. It is the only path to real freedom and security.

Yes, peace is the absence of violence, but it is also encompasses the belief in the dignity and value of all human beings and of our planet. And those of us who work for peace have the most powerful weapon at our disposal...righteousness. For those of you who wish to discredit the peace movement I wish you luck. History may eventually become the judge of our actions today, but the children of the world will ultimately become the benefactors of these actions tomorrow. And they will remember what each and every one of us has done to impact their destinies.

Tonight I stand before you as a proud member of the peace movement. As a mother standing in solidariy with Cindy Sheehan I dedicate my life's work to my children Reya and Dominic and to the memory of Casey and all the fallen heroes of this illegal and immoral war both here and in the Middle East.

As you lay awake tonight in the capital of the greatest democracy on earth, having committed no crime other than grieving for your beautiful little boy, I wish you comfort in your grief. Blessings and may peace be upon you, Cindy. REMEMBER...YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

In peace and solidarity,
Mary AlKhaja

Monday, September 19, 2005

National Day of Protest: Lompoc Action

As most of you may know, Saturday September 24, 2005 is a national day of protest both here and in the United Kingdom. The majority of Americans have had enough with the misguided foreign and domestic policies of the Bush Administration. This is our chance to show our elected officials that we are tired of our national treasure being wasted on an illegal war, money that should be going toward the protection of our own citizens in times of crisis and to the health and well being of all Americans.

If you are interested in participating in this action and cannot make it to San Francisco or Los Angeles we want you know that there will be a peace march and picnic here in Lompoc. We will be meeting at Centennial Park, located on H Street and Cypress Ave. at 10:30 AM. We will march along H Street and return to the park for a potluck picnic. Bring signs of peace and food or drink to share and join us for this peaceful demonstration.

Exercise your constitutional rights and become a participant in the democratic process. For more information please contact lompocpeace@yahoo.com or call 736-5459. Hope to see you on Saturday.

In peace,
Mary AlKhaja