MidEast Dispatches: ARTS-US: Iraq War Vets Transforming Trauma

September 21, 2008

ARTS-US: Iraq War Vets Transforming Trauma

Inter Press Service

By Dahr Jamail

MARFA, Texas, Sep 19 (IPS) – By using the written word and art, veterans of the U.S. occupation of Iraq are transforming their trauma into a message of both healing and resistance to the failed U.S. adventure.

“If I say nothing, I have failed,” writes veteran Drew Cameron, “If I do nothing, I am guilty. If I live by these ideals of democracy I can see that war is failure.”

Cameron began writing about his experiences in Iraq after he turned against the occupation when he had several personal realisations.

“It wasn’t until after I’d been back that I tried to shut off my experiences in Iraq,” Cameron told IPS. “I kept to myself, and was going through my memories and realised we’d destroyed their infrastructure and weren’t there to help. I realised it wasn’t about freedom and democracy, and the way we conducted ourselves, and the way we brutalised the people, made me against the occupation.”

“We were trained to fight and win battles,” he said. “I was in artillery, I was trained to blow shit up. We weren’t there to rebuild anything or help the Iraqi people.”

His writing became some of the first of what would evolve into the Warrior Writers Project, which uses writing and artistic workshops based on veterans’ experiences in the military and Iraq to bring their experiences to light and connect with one another, creating a context for both healing and resisting what their experience in the military has done to them.

“The writing from the workshops is compiled into books, performances and exhibits that provide a lens into the hearts of people who have a deep and intimate relationship with the Iraq war,” their mission statement reads.

Writings from the first workshops were made into the book, “Warrior Writers: Move, Shoot and Communicate”. A second book, “Re-making Sense”, has also been released.

“The title comes from the goal of remaking sense of our relationship with the war, of our lives, of what we do now, as veterans,” Cameron told IPS.

The Warrior Writers have also organised exhibits that showcase photographs taken by members in Iraq, as well as artwork. At the exhibits, veterans read from the books and perform pieces they had written in the workshop earlier that same day.

Cameron told IPS he feels the work is important “for catharsis and reconciliation, and also so people can hear our side of the story.”

Cameron was based at Camp Anaconda, a massive U.S. airbase just north of Baghdad. While there, he had access to satellite television and was stunned by how the corporate media was covering the occupation.

“I remember the images and stories coming out were different from what we were seeing on the ground,” he explained. “Our intelligence reports that briefed us on attacks against us and how we were getting hit, almost none of this was in the news. I remember being hit for seven days straight by mortars, but none of this was ever in the news.”

“The fundamental civil society and infrastructure has been so changed and altered in Iraq that it’s absolutely devastated,” Cameron told IPS, while speaking of the current situation there. “It’s been so altered…it’s not an argument of being on the road to victory because the surge is working, but the fact is that the country has been totally devastated. We need to understand where these people are in just trying to survive on a daily basis.”

This influenced Cameron heavily. He feels that both projects he is involved in are ways to show the truth to the U.S. public about what their government has done to Iraq.

Cameron co-founded and operates a paper mill called the People’s Republic of Paper (PRP) with artist Drew Matott, who founded the Green Door Studio in Burlington, Vermont, where the PRP is based, and together with Cameron, helped create the idea of pulping soldiers’ uniforms. Thus was born the Combat Paper Project.

By turning their uniforms into paper, soldiers utilise art to heal their trauma from the occupation of Iraq. The uniforms worn in combat are cut up, beaten and formed into sheets of paper, as veterans use a transformational process of papermaking to reclaim their uniform as a piece of art. The goal is for this to be a reconciliatory process for their experiences as soldiers in an occupation.

“The whole point is to create a space for vets to come in and in a closed context talk with each other about what they experienced in Iraq,” Matott told IPS.

“My energy is focused on helping folks heal,” he added. “One thing we do is show before and after art pieces. Usually the first pieces are very, very dark, when they [veterans] first came in. Then we show their later projects, which reveal the healing that has taken place within them, so it’s pretty optimistic.”

Cameron told IPS that for him, “To be able to take the uniform and reclaim it into what I want it to be is a deeply transformational and healing act.”

John Michael Turner, a former U.S. Marine machine gunner, was the second veteran to join the project.

Turner was still in the military when he moved to Burlington and heard about the project.

“I heard about the project that day and had a stack of uniforms in my trunk,” Turner told IPS. “So my first night in Burlington I ended up starting to make paper out of my uniforms.”

Turner, who gave powerful testimony at the Winter Soldier hearings last spring, added, “It is heartbreaking to see there are still people that believe we should be over there. Open your eyes and listen to what we have to say! I just want people to open their eyes and see what is going on, and what is being done over there.”

Through the project, Turner has found a conduit for healing what his time and actions in Iraq have wrought upon him. “All the experiences I’ve gone through, and all my built up frustration and thoughts and anger, instead of transferring that energy into another human being, I can transfer it into my uniforms, my writing, my drawings.”

By transforming his experiences and feelings into art, Turner said, “I can take a desert blouse and cut it up and turn it into a piece of paper. Then I have a blank piece of paper and put one of my poems there for other people to experience it, and for that minute they read it, they can see it through my eyes.”

Turner admitted to IPS that while he has found some relief for his trauma, “I still struggle. The problem is there is so much I need to reclaim.”

Cameron believes the work is ongoing as well.

“I can see it in my own writing — that the anger, gore and graphic frustration flows out, then transitions into a deeper reflection and contemplation about how do we approach the cultural relationship between militarism and our society,” he told IPS. “The military [in U.S. society] is so deeply rooted in us — it’s in our subconscious, and we have to root that out and be able to transcend it.”

Turner feels the work is critical. “We have to take this work and work together, all of us veterans, and help each other, or we’ll destroy ourselves.”

The project has had exhibitions around the country in cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and San Francisco, with many more to come.


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** Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **

Dahr Jamail’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone is NOW AVAILABLE!

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

“Essential reading for anybody who wants to know what is really happening in Iraq.” –Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent; author of The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq

Order Beyond the Green Zone today!
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

Winner of the prestigious 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Jounalism!

*** Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***

(c)2008 Dahr Jamail.

All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com

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MidEast Dispatches: IRAQ: Kidnappings Now Become ‘Unofficial’

August 30, 2008

IRAQ: Kidnappings Now Become ‘Unofficial’

Inter Press Service
By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail*

BAQUBA, Aug 29 (IPS) – Residents of Baquba deny police claims that kidnappings are now a matter of the past.

“There are fewer people disappearing, but it continues,” a trader who asked to be referred to as Abu Ali told IPS. “All of us know that several people are still being kidnapped every week.”

A local sheikh, speaking to IPS on condition of anonymity, said that many from his tribe have been kidnapped in just the last three weeks.

“This sectarian security operation is targeting Sunnis,” the sheikh said. “At least ten people from my tribe alone, all of them Sunnis, have been kidnapped, and we suspect it is by people with the government.”

A police captain, Ali Khadem, told IPS that “no kidnapping actions were reported in the city in the last four months.” Baquba is capital of Diyala province, just north-east of Baghdad.

Residents say that while the number of kidnappings may have declined, the fear continues. Underscoring the volatility of the province, the Iraqi government issued an order Aug. 27 banning residents from keeping weapons.

Baquba has seen more than its share of kidnappings. Those responsible are believed widely to be members of various militias, or simply common criminals looking for quick money.

“When we were going to our jobs, we did not know whether we would get back home or not,” Hisham Ibrahim, a local labourer, told IPS. “Everyday, we felt the same fear and horror. And now, even though it’s better, we don’t know when this horror will return.”

The usual kidnapping style is for armed militants to drive up with their faces covered to the victim’s house, office or shop, or sometimes corner him on the street. The victim is overpowered, and dumped into the boot. The kidnappers then demand ransom, usually making video films of the victim.

Often a killing is also filmed. “Near our house, there was a place we used to call the execution zone,” a trader told IPS on terms of anonymity. “I myself saw a cameraman with the militants in every action.”

Another resident, also speaking on terms of anonymity, told IPS he had witnessed executions of kidnapped men. “They brought kidnapped men blindfolded, with their hands tied, lined them up on the street, and shot them one by one.”

“My wife has been sick ever since she saw these killings from our house,” Nasir Abbas, a local resident who lives on Majara Avenue told IPS. Many kidnapped persons have been executed here.

Some of the kidnappings have been at random. “The militants might ask anyone on the street about his identity,” says Abdul-Jalil Khalil, a local trader. “They take him to their stronghold for questioning. When they find he is their sect, they release him. If not, they kill him.”

A local man who was kidnapped told IPS what he went through.

“Militants attacked me in the market. They forced me into the boot of a car. After reaching their place, they got me out of the boot, tied my hands and covered my eyes. They poisoned me with something that made me sick, along with several other people in a room.

“They were shouting and insulting us. They whipped me with a cable and a nylon tube on my back and legs. After a few hours, they took me to another room. There I met the leader, they called him the prince. He asked me about my sect, tribe, job, relatives, etc. The prince decided to release me after three days.”

Many others are never released. Or even recorded as ever having been kidnapped.

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East).

_______________________________________________

** Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **

Dahr Jamail’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone is NOW AVAILABLE!

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

“Essential reading for anybody who wants to know what is really happening in Iraq.” –Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent; author of The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq

Order Beyond the Green Zone today!
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

Winner of the prestigious 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Jounalism!

*** Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***

(c)2008 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com


MidEast Dispatches: Corruption Eats Into Food Rations

July 9, 2008

Corruption Eats Into Food Rations

Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail*

FALLUJAH, May 2 (IPS) – Amidst unemployment and impoverishment, Iraqis now face a cutting down of their monthly food ration – much of it already eaten away by official corruption.

Iraqis survived the sanctions after the first Gulf War (1990) with the support of rations through the Public Distribution System (PDS). The aid was set up in 1995 as part of the UN’s Oil-for-Food programme.

The sanctions were devastating nevertheless. Former UN programme head Hans von Sponeck said in 2001 that the sanctions amounted to “a tightening of the rope around the neck of the average Iraqi citizen.” Von Sponeck said the sanctions were causing the death of 150 Iraqi children a day.

Denis Halliday, former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq who quit his post in protest against the sanctions, told IPS they had proved “genocidal” for Iraqis.

During more than five years of U.S.-occupation, the situation has become even worse. The rationing system has been crumbling under poor management and corruption.

From the beginning of this year, the rations delivered were reduced from 10 items to five.

“We used the PDS as counter-propaganda against Saddam Hussein’s regime before the U.S. occupation of Iraq began in 2003,” Fadhil Jawad of the Dawa Party led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told IPS in Baghdad. “But then we found it necessary to maintain basic support for Iraqi people under occupation. We blamed Saddam for feeding Iraqis like animals with simple rations of food — that we fail to provide now.”

“When the Americans came to occupy Iraq, they promised us a better life,” Ina’m Majeed, a teacher at a girls school told IPS in Fallujah. “After killing our sons and husbands, they are killing us by hunger now. The food ration that was once enough for our survival is now close to nothing, and the market prices are incredibly high. It is impossible for 80 percent of Iraqis now to buy the same items they used to get from the previous regime’s food rations.”

Ina’m’s husband was killed in a U.S. air strike during the April 2004 siege of her city, leaving her with four children to bring up.

A World Food Programme (WFP) report in May 2006 found that just over four million people in Iraq were “food-insecure and in dire need of different kinds of humanitarian assistance.”

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in April 2007, of the four million Iraqis who cannot regularly buy enough to eat, only 60 percent had access to PDS rations. The situation is worse today.

The former Iraqi ministry of trade used to distribute fair quantities of food in the PDS, then low quality food at the beginning of the UN sanctions. The quantities were reduced after the sanctions lasted longer than the former government expected. After Iraq signed the memo of understanding in 1996 with the UN, the quality and quantity of food notably improved.

“Do not blame Iraqis for calling the sanctions days ‘the good old days’ because they were definitely good compared to the dark days we are living under U.S. occupation,” Abu Aymen, a 45-year-old lawyer with eight children told IPS in Fallujah. “All Iraqis complained about life under Saddam’s regime because it was bad, but it seems that all the good things, little as they were, have been taken away along with his statues.”

Aymen added, “We used to get cheese, powdered milk for us and our children, shaving paste and blades, tomato paste, special food for children, beans, soap and cleaning detergents, and even chicken, as well as basic foods like flour, rice, cooking oil, tea and sugar. Now we get bullets and missiles and polluted food and medicines.”

Haj Chiad, a PDS distribution agent in Fallujah, told IPS that he now also distributes illness.

“I used to deliver food, but now I distribute poison with it,” he said. “It has happened many times during the past four years that the food given to us by the ministry of trade was either rotten or actually poisoned. We distributed rice and sugar from sacks that had been stored a long time in damp places, and tomato paste that was long past its expiry date before we received it.”

The Iraqi parliament’s Committee for Integrity has demanded comprehensive interrogation of minister for trade Abdul Falah al-Sudany for the “vast corruption in his ministry.” But as with other complaints of corruption, Maliki has taken no action.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)


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***
Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***

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(c)2008 Dahr Jamail.

All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com

****
Dahr Jamail’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone is NOW AVAILABLE!

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

“Essential reading for anybody who wants to know what is really happening in Iraq.” –Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent; author of The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq

Order Beyond the Green Zone today!
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage


MidEast Dispatches: Through Occupation, The Very Dreams Change

May 28, 2008

Through Occupation, The Very Dreams Change

Inter Press Service


By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail*

BAQUBA, May 27 (IPS) – After more than five years of U.S. occupation, the very dreams of the people of Baquba have changed. For a start, they are no longer about the future.

Today, a shower is a dream. Or that the electricity supply continues just that little bit longer.

“These needs are very trivial for people of other countries,” 43-year-old political leader Saad Tahir told IPS. “But in Iraq, people dream more of these things than of some ambition or success.”

Abdullah Mahdi, a retired 51-year-old trader, says he dreams only of electricity.

“Like millions here, I hope supply gets better to help us to sleep in this hot summer,” Mahdi told IPS. “We have been suffering from this problem since the 1991 Kuwait war, and this current occupation only made things worse.”

Others dream of freedom of movement. “I dream of travelling among the Iraqi provinces freely and safely,” a local resident said. “For more than two years now, I have not travelled to any province of my country.” Lack of security means Iraqis can rarely travel even to a neighbouring area.

Children also seem to have begun to dream differently.

“I dream of a playground in which I and my friends can play freely and at any time,” 11-year-old Luay Amjad told IPS. Children are not allowed to play just anywhere for fear of unexploded bombs, haphazard firing, and a general fear of the Iraqi military. Many children in Baquba and other districts of Diyala province have been kidnapped.

“All families wish to see their children safe, and then enjoying their time,” said a young father. “We know that they currently live in a very closed world. But we put pressure on our children for their own safety. Streets are dangerous, and even gardens may sometimes be dangerous.”

Others dream of a functioning economy. According to the ministry of trade, unemployment has been vacillating between 40-70 percent over the last two years.

“I hope that the trade and economic process will improve,” said an unemployed trader. “I wish Iraq could be an industrial country with a flourishing and luxurious status of living. I want to get back to my shop and have my own customers.”

Teachers dream of an Iraq that can be a centre for education again. “Iraq was one of the countries that paid great attention to education,” a university professor, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “Now, breaking the rules of schools is very common, and fake certificates are spread widely all over the country. We dream of a rigorous and successful educational process.”

Farmers simply dream of water, and the security necessary to work in their fields. “I hope I can work on my farm again, and have water to irrigate all the land,” said a local vegetable farmer.

A cleric spoke of bigger dreams. “I dream that all Iraqis will love each other again, as we used to in the past days. We miss hope, a smile, and true love. We hope that cooperation prevails again among people. We hope for killing and displacement to end forever in this once peaceful country. We hope that the sectarian discrimination disappears.”

A political analyst said he dreams of an end to the occupation. “The occupation is the source of all the problems of our people. I do dream of the end of the occupation — no more arrests, no more prison for simple and poor people, and no more suffering.”

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East).


***
Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***

Order your copy of Dahr’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

(c)2008 Dahr Jamail.

All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com

——————————————————————————

Dahr Jamail’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone is NOW AVAILABLE!

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

“Essential reading for anybody who wants to know what is really happening in Iraq.” –Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent; author of The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq

Order Beyond the Green Zone today!
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage


MidEast Dispatches: ‘Handed Over’ to a Government Called Sadr

April 2, 2008

‘Handed Over’ to a Government Called Sadr

Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail*

BAGHDAD, Apr 2 (IPS) – Despite the huge media campaign led by U.S. officials and a complicit corporate-controlled media to convince the world of U.S. success in Iraq, emerging facts on the ground show massive failure.

The date March 25 of this year will be remembered as the day of truth through five years of occupation.”Mehdi army militias controlled all Shia and mixed parts of Baghdad in no time,” a Baghdad police colonel, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “Iraqi army and police forces as well as Badr and Dawa militias suddenly disappeared from the streets, leaving their armoured vehicles for Mehdi militiamen to drive around in joyful convoys that toured many parts of Baghdad before taking them to their stronghold of Sadr City in the east of Baghdad.”

The police colonel was speaking of the recent clashes between members of the Shia Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army, the largest militia in the country, and members of the Iraqi government forces, that are widely known to comprise members of a rival Shia militia, the Badr Organisation.

Dozens of militiamen from both sides were killed in clashes that broke out in Baghdad, Basra, Kut, Samawa, Hilla and most of the Iraqi Shia southern provinces between the Mehdi Army and other militias supported by the U.S., Iran and the Iraqi government.

The Badr Organisation militia is headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is also head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) that dominates the government. The Dawa Party is headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The number of civilians killed and injured in the clashes is still unknown. Iraqi government offices continue to keep largely silent about the events.

“Every resident of Basra knew the situation would explode any minute between these oil thieves, and that Basra would suffer another wave of militia war,” Salman Kathum, a doctor and former resident of Basra who fled for Baghdad last month told IPS.

For months now there has been a struggle between the Sadr Movement, the SIIC, and the al-Fadhila Party for control of the south, and particularly Basra.

Falah Shenshal, an MP allied to al-Sadr, told al-Jazeera Mar. 26 that al-Maliki was targeting political opponents. “They say they target outlaw gangs, but why do they start with the areas where the sons of the Sadr movement are located? This is a political battle…for the political interests of one party (al-Maliki’s Dawa party) because the local elections are coming soon (due later this year).”

The fighting came just as the U.S. military announced the death of their 4,000th soldier in Iraq, and on the heels of a carefully crafted PR campaign designed to show that the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq has successfully improved the situation on the ground.

“I wonder what lies General David Petraeus (the U.S. forces commander in Iraq) will fabricate this time,” Malek Shakir, a journalist in Baghdad told IPS. “The 25th March events revealed the true failure of the U.S. occupation project in Iraq. More complications are expected in the coming days.”

Maliki has himself been in Basra to lead a surge against Mehdi Army militias while the U.S. sent forces to surround Sadr City in an attempt to support their Badr and Dawa allies.

News of limited clashes and air strikes have come from Sadr City, with unofficial reports of many casualties amongst civilians. Curfew in many parts of Baghdad and in four southern provinces had made life difficult already.

“This failure takes Iraq to point zero and even worse,” Brigadier-General Kathum Alwan of the Iraqi army told IPS in Baghdad. “We must admit that the formation of our forces was wrong, as we saw how our officers deserted their posts, leaving their vehicles for militias.”

Alwan added, “Not a single unit of our army and police stood for their duty in Baghdad, leaving us wondering what to do. Most of the officers who left their posts were members of Badr brigades and the Dawa Party, who should have been most faithful to Maliki’s government.”

The Green Zone of Baghdad where the U.S. embassy and the Iraqi government and parliament buildings are located, was hit by missiles. General Petraeus appeared at a press conference to accuse Iran of being behind the shelling of the zone that is supposed to be the safest area in Iraq. At least one U.S. citizen was killed in the attacks, and two others were injured.

“The Green Zone looked deserted as most U.S. and Iraqi personnel were ordered to take shelter deep underground,” an engineer who works for a foreign company in the zone told IPS. “It seemed that this area too was under curfew. No place in Iraq is safe any more.”

Further complicating matters for the occupiers of Iraq, the U.S.-backed Awakening groups, largely comprised of former resistance fighters, are now going on strike to demand overdue payment from the U.S. military.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)

__________________________________________

***
Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***

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(c)2008 Dahr Jamail.

All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com


MidEast Dispatches: Divided Arabs Deliver Little

April 2, 2008

Divided Arabs Deliver Little

Inter Press Service
By Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail*

DAMASCUS, Mar 31 (IPS) – The Arab summit held in Damascus over this weekend has convinced many Iraqis that Arab leaders do not speak for them.

More than anything done or not, the very absence of many Arab leaders at the summit has left displaced Iraqis here angry.”It was a disappointment to us that some Arab leaders decided not to attend the summit in Damascus,” Dr. Zeki al-Khazraji, an Iraqi refugee in Syria told IPS. “We were looking forward to the summit thinking it might discuss our agonies that have lasted too long without any sign of improvement. If not the Arab leaders, who will think of us?”

Many Iraqi refugees say Arab leaders are cut off from their own people.

“The Iraqi fire is spreading to the Arab world and our leaders must think of their own positions,” Salim Mahmood, an Iraqi freelance journalist in Damascus told IPS. “We cannot understand why Iraqis are left alone to face daily death while Arabs just watch in silence.

“We are trying to understand the pressures applied on our brothers, but meanwhile we demand real intervention from our brothers to stop our government and the Americans from spilling our blood like water in Iraq.”

The Arab summit kicked off Saturday with a fiery speech from Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi attacking fellow Arab leaders for doing nothing while the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.

“How can we accept that a foreign power comes to topple an Arab leader while we stand watching,” said Gaddafi. Saddam Hussein, he said, had once been an ally of Washington. “But they sold him out.” He then pointed to Arab officials at the conference to say, “Your turn is next.”

The Libyan leader added: “Where is the Arabs’ dignity, their future, their very existence? Everything has disappeared.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says there are at least 1.5 million displaced Iraqis in Syria alone.

“Five years now, and things are getting worse in Iraq while only two poor Arab countries (Syria and Jordan) are taking the load of Iraqis who fled their country for safety,” Malek Sabeeh from the Iraqi Centre for Human Rights told IPS.

“Syria was our first safe haven, but how long can this country that has limited resources stand the high cost of hosting such a huge number of refugees while other countries are paying billions of dollars for building separation walls between them and Iraq, and now boycotting such an important summit.” Sabeeh was referring to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who are building protection walls along their borders with Iraq.

Leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan stayed away from the summit after Washington urged its allies to think twice before attending.

Many Iraqi refugees also expressed anger over the lack of support from the Gulf countries. Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates do not allow Iraqis in, and their contributions to Iraqi refugees have been modest.

Many Iraqis say the absence of many Arab leaders highlighted the deep divisions caused by the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq across the Middle East. “This nation will never be united as long as Americans have their fingers in the area,” Sheikh Faris Ahmed, an Iraqi cleric who brought his son for medical treatment in Syria told IPS.

Egypt and some Gulf countries have recently signed arms deals with the U.S. worth several billion dollars.

(*Maki, our correspondent in Syria, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported from the region for more than four years.)

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Order your copy of Dahr’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

(c)2008 Dahr Jamail.

All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com


MidEast Dispatches: BTGZ Wins James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for 2007 / Jamail on Alternative Radio, April 15

April 2, 2008

BTGZ Wins James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for 2007

Dahr Jamail, author of
Beyond the Green Zone
Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq

Dahr Jamail (Author)
Foreword by Amy Goodman
Published: 10/01/2007
9781931859479 | $20.00 | Trade Cloth
Forthcoming in paperback
http://www.cbsd.com/inventory.aspx?id=22349

has just won a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for 2007

The award letter says that Jamail’s work “has shown the depth of suffering and ‘collateral damage’ not readily captured in corporate media” and praises his “remarkable contribution to social justice journalism.”

The awards ceremony is 5:30 p.m., Monday, April 14 at Hunter College in New York City.

For more information about the Aronson Award, visit
http://filmmedia.hunter.cuny.edu/Aronson

Alternative Radio

April 15 Dahr Jamail – Iraq: Beyond the Green Zone (lecture)

-Alternative Radio is a weekly one-hour progressive radio show syndicated on more than 190 stations in the U.S. and beyond.

Feed Date & Time: Tuesdays, 1400-1459ET
Channel: A68.5
Terms: Free of Charge to All Stations
Contact: Ali Lightfoot, 303-473-0972, info@alternativeradio.org

Alternative Radio
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USA
1-800-444-1977
http://www.alternativeradio.org/

______________________________________

***

Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***

Order your copy of Dahr’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

(c)2008 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com