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Tag: Iraq War

Creating Alternative Ways to Serve Our Country

Army

This afternoon, I actually had free time on my hands, alone. Wanting to take full advantage of this rarity, especially now that it is summer and my children are home from school, I drove to the bookstore. I treated myself to a white chocolate mocha and browsed through the book shelves. I picked up a small book that called out to me, titled The Thing You Think You Cannot Do. I opened to a page that talked about the author’s experience in Iraq.

I walked with the book to the café and sat at a table next to the window. I returned to that page, and read something that I thought was quite appropriate to share for the Fourth of July Holiday. Here are excerpts of what the author, Gordon Livingston, M.D., wrote in Chapter 10, Beware of ideas on which we all agree:

“No shared feelings are more firmly embedded in the American culture than the admiration and gratitude that we have toward the young men and women who have served in our most recent wars. Their sacrifices are celebrated at every opportunity, and stories about our “wounded warriors” and their families are a stable of the nightly news. Our great national spectacles – sporting events, holidays – become occasions for patriotic celebration and remembrance, rife with clichés (such as “Freedom isn’t Free”) designed to reassure us that, while we personally have not chosen to sacrifice anything during wartime, we at least appreciate those who have made the choice to do so. They stand in their camouflage uniforms often looking a little mystified at the applause.

The reflexive impulse to treat our troops as heroes serves an important part aside from relieving our guilt at having done nothing ourselves. The war in Iraq, no less than other wars, involved the morally ambiguous process of killing large numbers of people who posed no threat to us. Because the instruments of destruction were our sons and daughters, we find it hard to take responsibility for asking this of them without regret and self-examination. Ignoring our misjudgments and redoubling our admiration for the young people who risked everything on our behalf are far easier….

The “Support our troops” bumper magnets that blossomed as the invasion of Iraq commenced could have just as well read “My country, right or wrong!”

And so we venerate those who put themselves in fear-inducing situations on our behalf and did whatever they could to survive. Most of them are neither heroes nor killers, just patriotic people volunteering to hazard themselves for reasons that to them seemed good at the time. Can we deal with our fears in some way that does not involve the use of bullets or high explosives? Can we celebrate those willing to take risks while creating alternative ways for young people to serve their country that are less costly to them and to others in distant places who love their children in the same way that we love ours?” 

I hope that we value our troops enough to listen and reflect upon the questions Mr. Livingston posed before us, and invest the time, wisdom and love necessary to find answers for these powerful questions.

Wahhabism vs. Islam

Dr. AlSaedi

This morning I read that Saudi Arabia has postponed Friday’s public flogging of activist and blogger Raif Badawi on medical grounds. Badawi, who set up the “Free Saudi Liberals” website, was arrested in June 2012 for offences which also included cybercrime and disobeying his father – a crime in Saudi Arabia. The prosecution had demanded he be tried for apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but a judge dismissed that charge. He was sentenced last year to 10 years in jail, a fine of 1 million riyals ($267,000) and 1,000 lashes after prosecutors challenged an earlier sentence of seven years and 600 lashes as too lenient.

I remembered a talk I had two days ago with my colleague Dr. Kamal Alsaedi, an Iraqi-American. Dr. Alsaedi and a group of activists started protesting against the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. This group has been active through lectures and meetings with political officials in trying to bring awareness on the Wahhabi religion movement’s influence on our country and the rest of the world.

“The Wahhabis, not Islam, are responsible for the terrorism acts happening today,” he said. “Wahhabis consider themselves ‘the chosen people’ and so anyone outside of their religion is a sinner and ought to be killed – that includes me, even though I am Muslim.”

Because he is a Shia Muslim, Dr. Alsaedi is viewed as much a sinner as Christians and Jews. Non-Wahhabi Sunnis are also considered sinners, but they are given an opportunity to convert.

“Wahhabis look at all religions, all people as sinners,” he said.

The Wahhabi religious movement is a fundamentalist Islamic order that advocates a strict interpretation of the teachings in the Quran. It was founded in the 16th century in what is now Saudi Arabia as a reaction against the influences of Sufism and the Shia interpretation of Islam. The early Wahhabi leaders believed that Islam had become rife with superstition and what they believed to be deviant practices. These practices included invoking the names of prophets or saints for veneration, practicing magic and sorcery, and changing the accepted methods of worship.

“The religion for terrorists is Wahhabism,” he said, noting that between 1970 and today, there have been 250,000 individual Saudis involved in terrorism acts around the world. Before the Iraq war there were 459 nonprofit organizations inside of Saudi Arabia that collected money for terrorists. Right before the September 11th attack, the United States shut down 250 of them. And the obvious – 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.

The 9/11 Commission Report ultimately went on to explain why so many Saudis were involved in the hijackings to begin with. According to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the September 11 plot, as he toured Al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan in the years leading up to the attacks, he found that the vast majority of the recruits being trained there (by his count 70%) were from Saudi Arabia (p.232). This assessment has been further corroborated by two other prominent Al Qaeda operatives who estimated that a full 80% of Al Qaeda’s members were from Saudi nationals in an interview with the PBS news program Frontline.

“Politics is above humanitarian issues,” he said. “It’s not about consciousness, it’s about money. The Saudis pay ISIS money to take down countries. The other problem is the media. Nothing negative is ever said in the news about Saudis. Never. Why? Because they pay the American news channels $12 billion a year.”

Dr. Alsaedi has started a petition urging that Saudi Arabia be listed as a country that represents, supports and sponsors terrorism. To learn more, visit: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/UN_united_nations_we_want_Saudi_arabia_to_be_listed_as_a_terrorist_country/?copy

10 Year Anniversary of Iraq War is Hush-Hush

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I may not have known about the 10th year anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Iraq if not for BBC (Arabic) last night. A news program shed light on the subject by interviewing a family whose daughter got badly hurt as a result of the war. The girl had the same name as that of my daughter, and she was the same age. Six years ago, some violent act – I believe an explosion – took her mother’s life and left her blind and her face completely disfigured.

The war took the lives of 4,488 U.S. service members and left more than 32,000 wounded. As many as 1.2 million Iraqi people have died because of the conflict. That exceeds that of the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 died. Yet today, probably due to these facts, Washington and Baghdad have been pretty hush-hush about it and no official commemorations were at work.

I wonder, will the media be able to eventually wipe this war off of peoples’ memory, the way in which they were able to convince them that it was justifiable?