Thursday, May 31, 2012

Boston’s School Bussing Policy Unsustainable

Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan I often felt like I had a hard time making and keeping friendships. My immigrant parents who worked more than full time had no close community ties and were not particularly social, so I was basically on my own when it came to finding a group of peers to “hang out” with. However, due to the relatively small size of the town and neighborhood school placement, by Junior High, even without much parental supervision I was quite familiar to the neighborhood kids and had developed relationships that, thanks to Facebook, continue to this day.

My children growing up in Boston, Massachusetts are having a very different childhood.

I try to make an effort to get to know the parents of any child my children take a shine to, but keeping up the relationship however requires driving the children to and from play-dates, because the way Boston Public Schools are set up, students are chosen from remote neighborhoods to attend school. I have at times found myself in despair because even after four children, I have hardly any personal contact with neighborhood parents, while my children do not know anyone from school within walking distance to play with, despite the large number of children living in our area.

Personal alienation is a profound side effect of Boston’s historical bussing program that was instituted as a result of the Civil Rights movement. Instead of automatically going to a nearby school, all students regardless of family income are entered in a lottery to try for their “top choice” schools. Failing that, students are assigned almost randomly to schools throughout the city. While students within walking distance of a school receive some priority status there is no guarantee. I cannot even imagine the waste in gasoline costs. Not only are poor kids getting bussed into wealthier areas for school but wealthier kids are being bussed into poorer neighborhoods. There are even programs such as METCO, where children are bussed out into the suburbs in the interest of diversity.

In a Dorchester Reporter article entitled “School policy casts our children adrift,” Gintautas Dumcius describes a recent Committee on Education hearing at Boston City Hall. It included several families disgruntled with the current system. They all live within blocks of each other, but their children go to different schools. “I don’t, frankly, know many of them,” said Michael Harrington, a Dorchester parent of two, with a tinge of sadness. Parents reported that they must take their children each morning to several different bus stops to be brought to various schools many miles away. The situation is so intensely irritating that parents who can afford it have been moving to the suburbs or putting their children in private schools.

Karen Johnson, who relocated her family from Pittsburgh to Boston, said if she had a chance to do it all over again, she would probably not have moved into the city. “I’m unhappy with the structure of the system and that children have to move [between schools] so often.”

“I think all of this testimony spoke to the need for massive reform,”

City Councillor At-Large John Connolly said after the five hour hearing. “…The current system leaves parents greatly frustrated and the Dorchester panel also spoke to the fact that it leaves neighbors not knowing each other or not able to bond together the way they’d like to.”

Mayor Thomas Menino has pledged to launch a “radically different” school placement system, with students being able to go to schools in their neighborhood, by next year.

There is a task force assigned to the duty of overhauling the school assignment policies.

My own personal experience with Boston Public Schools has actually been quite positive. Placement in Kindergarten for my youngest can be expected to take up to three years in Boston due to not enough available seats for willing students, but one wonderful new development, part of the School Readiness program, is the parent-child Playgroups opportunity for parents and children 1 and up. Another great thing for my family is the expansion of my children’s elementary school into a middle school, thus enabling my children to keep their friendships through eighth grade.

But the best policy of all for my children so far has been the Exam School policy of Boston Public Schools. Students on the Honor Roll in third and fourth grade are put into the “Advanced Work Program,” special class assignments likely to result in placement at one of three prestigious public prep schools. Boston Latin School, where my son now attends seventh grade, is actually the oldest public school in America, and was attended by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and other founders of the United States.

So, although the general state of Boston Public Schools remains perhaps not much more than a government-funded daycare center for working parents, for those students who want to learn, and are willing to work, there are very real opportunities, and I am deeply grateful for that.

Neighborhood organizations like “Thrive in 5” combine the efforts of several government and donor sponsored organizations to help unite isolated parents with available aid, but ultimately I think the best way to introduce families to one another is to re-institute neighborhood school assignments so that parents can organize themselves to get the funding they need for whatever they want to see happen locally.

Friday, May 18, 2012

People’s Lawyer Goes to Jail


By Karin Friedemann, TMO
File:  Attorney Barry Wilson.
Boston–“The fiery attorney who represented former Boston city councilor Chuck Turner in his bribery trial is now headed to jail himself,” the Boston Globe reports.
Superior Court Judge Patrick Brady sentenced famed “people’s lawyer” Barry Wilson to 90 days in the South Bay House of Correction in Boston for contempt of court for being “loud, abusive, insulting and disruptive.”
On May 15, 2012, Wilson was escorted off to jail in front of a courthouse crowded with his supporters.
Attorney Wilson was attempting to ensure that his client, a 22-year-old African-American man on trial for his life, had a jury of his peers in a first degree murder trial. Wilson protested when the prosecutor struck off all young people and people of African-American descent from serving on the jury. Wilson then “went ballistic” after the judge then empaneled a white man who had worked many years for Homeland Security. David Boeri of WBUR reports that Wilson’s “pyrotechnics” went on for six minutes.
“You’re going to sit him. Lock me up now. Just lock me up, lock me up and declare a mistrial,” Wilson ranted. “That’s ridiculous. Fifteen years a federal agent and he’s going to be unbiased — are you kidding me?”
As Wilson strongly objected, the judge found him in contempt. The Judge then stayed the sentence until completion of the trial and ordered Attorney Wilson to proceed. As a result, Wilson said he was under the sword during the whole trial and therefore distracted from defending his client fully.
Two days after the jury found the defendant guilty of first degree murder, Judge Brady sentenced Attorney Wilson to ninety days in jail.
Barry Wilson has a 36 year long history of defending political activists, labor organizers, immigrants and minorities. He was lead counsel in the Plymouth 25, Marcus Jean and Amer Jubran cases, the first lawyer for the Boston School Bus Drivers, Steelworkers Local 8751 in the 1970s, and counsel for framed African-American City Councilor Chuck Turner. Wilson served six months in federal prison in 1985 for refusing to violate attorney-client privilege.
According to Wilson’s lawyer, Judge Brady had dropped “a nuclear bomb” without warning, “chilling the advocacy” of defense attorneys.
Associate Appeals Court Justice David Mills, in reviewing Wilson’s alleged misconduct, considered it a clear breach of decorum. “He screamed at the judge and made a scene,” Mills said.
“All I’m trying to do is stand up for my clients’ rights,” Wilson said. “You got to be in those pits to understand what you have to do.
You’re standing between your client and a jail cell. And you have an ethical, professional obligation to be a zealous advocate.”
On Thursday May 3, 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court denied Attorney Wilson’s motion for further appellate review, thus upholding the Court of Appeal’s March 20, 2012 decision denying Attorney Wilson’s appeal. The Appeals Court called Wilson’s conduct “without parallel” in a 21-page rebuke.
During the contempt hearing, Wilson was defiant.
“Mr. Wilson, your behavior before me two weeks ago was atrocious,” said Suffolk Superior Court Judge Patrick Brady, calling Wilson’s conduct “the worst I’ve seen in 20 years on the bench.”
“I don’t think my conduct was egregious or out of line in terms of what occurred in court,” the criminal defense attorney replied to the judge in his well-known booming voice. “In 2011 an African-American man cannot get a fair trial.”
“Wilson has a right to his own opinions but he has no right to interrupt the proceedings and turn the courtroom into a platform from which to hurl disrespectful words at the judge and the criminal justice system because he did not agree with the judge’s ruling,” the Appeals Court concluded.
“This flagrantly reactionary repression — which comes from the same poisoned well that jailed people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart (who represented the blind Shaykh Omar Rahman) — is designed to send a threatening message to the progressive movement and to all defense lawyers who stand with it,” comments Kirshbaum in Workers World.
Larry Pinkney writes on, “On February 10th, 2005, attorney Lynne Portia Stewart, after having been targeted for many years by the US Government for her vigorous defense of the rights of Black and other people of color, found herself convicted of a despicably and conspicuously bogus ‘conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism’ charge.”
This was “an obvious attempt by the U.S. government to silence dissent, curtail vigorous defense lawyers, and install fear in those who would fight against the U.S. government’s racism,” state her supporters.
Prior to sentencing, Stewart wrote a letter to the judge pleading for mercy: “What might have been legitimately tolerated in 2000-2001, was after 9/11, interpreted differently and considered criminal… The government disparages the idea of zealous advocacy because it has never practiced criminal defense law as I did, with heartfelt concern for my clients. I tested the limits of what the courts and law would allow for my clients because I believed I was, as criminal defense lawyers often say, “liberty’s last champion.”
Unfortunately the rules of ethics have moved away from excusing zealous or intemperate behavior and language. 90 days in the county jail for Wilson still seems quite extraordinary, when the customary penalty for an attorney’s contempt of court is normally a fine, but jail time for zealous attorneys seems to be occurring more frequently, especially in political cases.
Michigan criminal defense attorney Scott Milliard found himself in jail for four days after being held in contempt by District Court Judge Kenneth Post because he told a client at arraignment not to answer the judge’s questions about personal drug use because the client might incriminate himself.
Kentucky attorney Amelia Adams got 6 months in jail after she refused to disclose to District Judge Karem the name of her 17 year old client who had sought permission from the court to have an abortion without her parent’s consent.
Wilson told his supporters, “I’ll go do my 90 days, I’ll smile through the whole 90 days. I’ll go out the way I came in… No I don’t regret anything. I did what I was supposed to do.”
Wilson plans to retire after he does his time. “I’m gone,” Wilson says. “I don’t want any more part of this. Why would I want to do this job any more and be surrounded by judges who are idiots? I legitimized a bankrupt system, and I was very good at it. I achieved everything I ever wanted.”

2012 Olympics the Year of Muslim Women

By Karin Friedemann, TMO
Muslim Athletes Shine in Hijab
The 2012 Olympics promises to be an exciting year for Muslim women athletes as well as anyone and  everyone who enjoys debating women’s rights issues. There is controversy, there are lovely ladies, and an observant public. We will probably be hearing a lot more from the media in the coming weeks.
Muslim women athletes are in many ways stuck between a rock and a hard place: between a religious orthodoxy that generally frowns upon young women being seen in the public eye and the West, which frowns upon the covering of women.
The pressure is on, as Human Rights Watch has suggested that if Saudi Arabia will not support the participation of women in the Olympics, the Olympics should not support the participation of Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabian newscaster Reema Abdullah has been chosen as one of the torch-bearers at the 2012 London Games.
The big fuss over Muslim women’s participation in the Olympics invites the question of why more Muslim women do not participate in sports.
Farah Jassat reports in the Guardian, UK: Cultural barriers to participation were recently highlighted in Saudi Arabia, when the country refused to allow Saudi women to compete in the Olympics. The institutional barrier, by contrast, can be seen in International Federation of Association Football ban on women wearing hijab. The Iranian women’s football team could not complete their 2012 Olympic second-round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their headscarves.
Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, based in the UK, strongly believes that faith and sport for both genders are entirely compatible and that the culture of sport is an essential part of Islamic history. Since its establishment in 2001 MWSF has been at the forefront of encouraging physical activity amongst women from British ethnic-minority communities. Offering female only athletic sessions has helped to address cultural sensitivities and provide opportunities where more Muslim women feel comfortable in enjoying sport. MWSF even allows mothers to bring their kids along to training sessions.
This leads us to an important point: Participation of women of any age in physical fitness, regardless of religion, is often curtailed by childcare responsibilities. This is most unfortunate, since the only way for women to “reclaim” their bodies after childbirth is through regular physical exercise. American researchers report that the main obstacle to female exercise is sheer exhaustion from raising children and keeping house, in addition to earning income. There is no way for a mother to attend an aerobics class, run a few blocks, or even go into a private room to do some stretches unless at least one family member is willing to step up to take care of the children for some time to support the desire of the mother to get some exercise. Even those families who cite their total dependence on the mother as their reason for her lack of privacy should be aware that she is likely to be around a lot longer if she has access to some free time to work out.
Salma Bi, a cricketer and umpire believes “the main challenge is the support of the family.”
“It is much harder to excel in anything if your loved ones don’t understand why it’s important to you,” notes Jassat.
MWSF’s International Sportswoman of the Year, Ibtihaj Muhammad is an American sabre fencer who has made the last two US World Championship teams and ranked second in the US. She hopes to be the first Muslim woman representing the US in the Olympics in any sport whilst wearing hijab. Although she has said it is “extremely difficult being different in the sports world – be it for religion or race…” she also concludes, “I would never fence if it compromised who I am and my religion – I love that the two work together.”
Another bright shining star hopeful is the Malaysian rifle shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who will be well into her pregnancy at the time of her Olympic competition. She will be the fourth woman to compete in the Olympics while pregnant. The first was Swedish figure skater Magda Julin in 1920, the second was German skeleton racer Diane Sartor in 2006 and the third was Kristie Moore, a Canadian curler in 2010.
Suryani told Reuters, “I feel I am strong and my husband says ‘as long as you feel like that, energized to do that, it seems like that is your baby talking to you so you go.’” Malaysia’s best shooter will however not be competing in the 50m competition, even though she achieved the qualifying marks. “Yeah, I cannot do a prone position with this big stomach,” she said.
The accomplishments of Muslim women athletes are guaranteed to be a source of inspiration for the wider community, states David Bernstein, President of Level Playing Field and Chair of the Centre for Access to Football in Europe.
The world is watching, regardless of anyone’s opinion on the matter.
The best we can hope for is that our sisters will make us proud with their excellent performances at the 2012 Olympics, because no matter how they rank in their sport, they are showing us what is possible in this decade of history.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Methodists Vote on Israel-Palestine Question

caterprotestboycottcatOn May 2, 2012, the United Methodist Church held their annual General Assembly in Tampa, Florida, where they voted on the issue of divestment from the State of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians by boycotting companies such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola, who profit from the Israeli Occupation. The New York Times reported that:
“After an afternoon of impassioned debate and several votes, the delegates overwhelmingly passed a more neutral resolution calling for ‘positive’ investment to encourage economic development ‘in Palestine.’
“However, the Methodists also passed a strongly worded resolution denouncing the Israeli occupation and the settlements, and calling for ‘all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.’”
Susanne Hoder, a Methodist from Rhode Island and a spokeswoman for a group for divestment, the United Methodist Kairos Response said that even though at the General Assembly,  divestment was defeated by a 2-to-1 ratio in two separate votes, four geographic regions of the Methodist Church — Northern Illinois, California Pacific, New York and West Ohio — had already voted to pull out their own investments. “We expect that more United Methodist conferences will do this,” she said.
The Presbyterian Church USA will also hold a similar vote at their upcoming conference in June. In 2004, the Presbyterians voted for divestment but voted against it at their next general assembly two years later.
Many are disappointed and frustrated by such wishy-washy positions and watering down of perfectly reasonable, non-violent approaches to defeating injustice, resulting in statements of support without any meaningful action towards supporting justice.
Sadly and predictably, 2 out of 3 Methodists succumbed to the twisted logic of 1,200 rabbis accusing them of “singling out” Israel for criticism, warning that supporting divestment would “damage the relationship between Jews and Christians.” This overused lobbying tactic nearly always triggers instant shame and self-questioning in White Christians, for cultural reasons that have long passed their time of relevancy.
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was a leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa responded strongly to the pro-Israel rabbis’ tainting of the divestment efforts in an article published in the Tampa Bay Times:
“While they are no doubt well-meaning, I believe that the rabbis and other opponents of divestment are sadly misguided. My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be an excuse for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonize the West Bank and advance racist laws.
“I recall well the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in which he confesses to his “Christian and Jewish brothers” that he has been “gravely disappointed with the white moderate … who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom. …”
On a brighter note, the resolution that passed voiced support to “end all military aid to the region.”
Jewish Voices For Peace was unsurprisingly the most active group pushing for divestment, along with the interfaith group Fellowship of Reconciliation. While they failed to convince the Methodists that “divestment from the Israeli occupation is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Jewish,” important lessons were learned by the outreach experience.
One thing that became clear to activists was that the targeted companies are fully aware and unrepentant of their role in aiding Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Thus, they can move forward now with clear certainty that there is no point in further negotiating with these corporations.
JVP reported that the General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the UMC, Jim Winkler, recently stated:
“As someone who has been involved in the discussions by UM agencies and ecumenical partners with Caterpillar for six years, I would like to share critical issues we have repeatedly raised with the company.
Regrettably, in all of these meetings, including one last week, Caterpillar has told us it has no intention to change any of its business practices relating to the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Another important development in the struggle for justice is that what was once considered “unthinkable” is now being spoken. Tutu writes:
“If we do not achieve two states in the near future, then the day will certainly arrive when Palestinians move away from seeking a separate state of their own and insist on the right to vote for the government that controls their lives, the Israeli government, in a single, democratic state.”
There are still those who would recoil from the idea of Palestinian and Israeli sharing a land in equality as “antisemitism,” but within the American political context this is a pretty uncomfortable position to maintain. For this reason, opponents of equality have worked hard to stifle debate by reframing the issues using emotional language and veiled threats.
White churches have a lot to lose by upsetting the status quo, while Black churches usually have more pressing local concerns. Church involvement in the divestment movement, even if totally supportive, would be more symbolic than effective for major change. However, it is vital to continue to bring the debate into the general American public in these and various other ways.

Decisive Muslim Voting in France

The Muslim Observer

President Sarkozy Voted out, 93% of Muslims vote for Hollande
By Karin Friedemann, TMO
Outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) and newly-elected President Francois Hollande attend a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe to commemorate the end of World War II in Paris May 8, 2012.
REUTERS/Lionel Bonaventure/Pool
France: Via La Vie:According to a poll by Opinion Way and Fiducial for Le Figaro, 93% of Muslims voted for Hollande.  7% voted for Sarkozy.
The poll was conducted May 6th among 1000 voters. According to the polling agency, there are about 2 million Muslim voters. 59% of Muslims voted for Hollande in the first round.  23% voted for  Jean-Luc Melenchon (Left Front) and 7% voted for Fran├žois Bayrou (Democratic Movement).  Sarkozy got 4% of the Muslim vote in the first round.
Socialist challenger Francois Hollande defeated incumbent Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy by a relatively narrow margin on Sunday, May 6 to become the next French president for a five-year term. It was the first election where French Muslims, who comprise over 5% of the population, were called out to vote. Therefore, it is assumed that Sarkozy’s anti-Muslim rhetoric cost him the election. Hollande got 51.8 percent of votes compared with 48.2 percent for Sarkozy. Hollande’s election campaign bears similarities to the Obama election campaign in the US, where the winning candidate shrugged off Muslim support while antagonists painted him with sinister accusations of being in league with Muslims.
Tareq Ramadan, an imam in Geneva, Switzerland, became a topic of debate for his opinion on the French elections, and was accused of influencing the Muslim vote. Ramadan replied: “When I attack Nicolas Sarkozy, I’m taking on the government, the establishment. As for the Socialist Party, I also regret that it has abandoned its ideals. I hold both the mainstream French political parties responsible for the rise of the National Front.
”Canada’s Globe and Mail reports: “Imams and Islamic associations are calling on Muslims to do their duty as citizens and go to the polls.
And while they’re not officially endorsing anyone, the call itself is a bold move in a country where statistics on religious affiliation are formally banned and where secularism is enshrined in the constitution.
Experts say that Muslims in poor neighborhoods and Muslim youth tend to vote for the left. But the Muslim vote is diverse, and Muslims have tended in the past to avoid politics. Kamel Kabtane, the rector of the Lyon mosque, who was among a group of imams at some 30 mosques in southeast France pressing Muslims to vote, said, “By this initiative, we want to show that Muslims aren’t citizens of the second zone … They can vote for whom they want but be present in the voting booth.”
“I want to condemn the conniving and irresponsible attitude of the Socialist Party and its candidate after religious leaders belonging to a network of 700 mosques called on followers to vote for Francois Hollande,” Eric Ciotti, lawmaker of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, said in a press release cited by The National newspaper on Sunday, April 29. In the first round of elections, the most extreme right-wing candidate, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, won over 25% of the vote, “sending shock-waves around France.” The National Front platform is comparable to the American Tea Party, with its platform against globalism, immigrants, and government social services. Incumbent President Nicholas Sarkozy adopted these right-wing attitudes in an effort to win NF votes for his re-election but was perceived as hypocritical by the truly conservative. Therefore Sarkozy won neither the left nor right, but he did win the hearts of the Israelis. 92.8% of French Jews in Israel with dual citizenship voted for Sarkozy.
The whole concept of Muslims voting as a block was so inflammatory that the head of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur said such calls to vote are dangerous because they risk dragging a religion into politics, and “I refuse it.” However, other Paris imams encouraged Muslims to vote, including Mohamed Saleh Hamza who heads the northern Paris mosque where, until last fall, the faithful spilled into the street to pray because crowds had grown too big to fit inside. Muslims “have a tendency not to vote. Now, we’re telling them that they are full citizens,” Mr. Hamza said.“ They’re not organized yet, but that will come.”The election was highly contentious and often bitter, but the newSocialist president is expected to take office May 15. Hollande says he will make the rich pay more tax and will improve the lot for workers and the less well-off. He also says he will take initiatives on a number of social issues, but it is still unclear how far he can go and how these will be financed. The new president has also vowed to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2012.
Policy in the Middle East is unlikely to change radically with Hollande, as this is an area where there are no major disagreements between right and left. Like the Conservatives, the Socialists have close ties with Israel and these are likely to be unaffected by the new regime. By American standards, Hollande is unlikely to be perceived as minority-friendly. He says he would not allow separate menus in public cafeterias or separate hours in swimming pools for men and women to satisfy demands of the Muslim community. Hollande had said that if he is elected president, “I will apply the law” on face veils. In a country where horse pate is standard fair in supermarkets, the French indignation against halal meat may seem extreme to the casual observer.
Americans may take note of the drama and decide for themselves, but in general,  American norms of civil rights and religious freedom far exceed the existing situation for Muslims in France.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Iraq’s Radiation: Not Going Away

By Karin Friedemann, The Muslim Observer

A depleted Uranium shell
According to Al Jazeera, the Pentagon used more than 300 tons of depleted uranium in Iraq in 1991. In 2003, the US military used more than 1,000 tons. In 2010, depleted uranium contamination was reported to be the highest on record, yet by 2012 continuing documentation has still not resulted in any action by the US or any other responsible party towards environmental clean-up.
An April 13, 2012 article by Karlos Zurutuza published by Global Research quotes hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi saying:
“At Fallujah hospital they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone. It’s all too shameful for them.”
Relief organizations such as LIFE for Relief and Development escorted several US Congressmen on a tour of Iraqi hospitals in 2002, which often had no electricity nor sterile equipment, where women too weak from hunger to give birth had to receive C-sections by candlelight without anesthetic on beds without sheets. The horror show often reached its climax when the baby was born looking grotesque. When the sympathetic Congresspeople spoke up, the US government arrested relief workers and peace activists from several organizations for the crime of breaking US sanctions.
Back then, there was already documentation of Iraqi babies being born with bizarre deformations such as hands growing out of shoulders without arms, which were also found to occur in the offspring of US veterans who had served in Iraq. None of this came as a surprise to the US Army.
In a report published in 1990, before Operation Desert Storm, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) reported that:
“Short-term effects of high doses can result in death, while long-term effects of low doses have been implicated in cancer,” and
“Aerosol DU exposures to soldiers on the battlefield could be significant with potential radiological and toxicological effects.”
None of this is new information, but a recent photo circulated on Facebook shows infant deformations in Iraq that are so horrific that I was asked to stop “traumatizing” my friends after I posted the photo.
Many babies born dead in Iraq today do not even resemble a human being. My Facebook friend told me she doesn’t want to see it and doesn’t want to think about it ever again. This was the first time she had ever heard of this problem.
My outrage, if fully expressed, would be a howling scream filling every corner of the earth. How dare anyone do this to women? Or refuse to care? How come, after over 20 years, no one is working to fix this problem? I have lost so many friends over the years, trying to educate them, and yet our popular culture continues to condemn Nazi Germans as the worst people who ever lived, because they went about their normal lives, oblivious to the atrocities of their government. The Nazis are accused of having performed scientific experiments on humans. Yet when I spoke up in college German history class, saying, “You ask, ‘How could they?’ How could you?” I just received a roomful of blank stares.
After WWII, the victorious party (America) took responsibility for rebuilding the defeated party (Germany). This was considered vital for preserving the world economy. Projected temperature for Wednesday in Baghdad is 103 degrees. Before we discuss universal health care for Americans, we need to discuss the clean-up of Iraq.
The radioactivity situation in Iraq is much worse than in Japan after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each atomic bomb created a huge blast that killed over 100,000 people within eight weeks, one third of them dying within one day. Infants conceived within that eight week period were found with birth defects but no genetic damage was discovered after the blasts.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings, an exhaustive Japanese study, published in English in 1981 claims that most of the radioactive debris was carried off in the mushroom cloud and not embedded in the earth. By contrast, the relatively low-level radiation caused by the use of depleted uranium artillery and tanks has become part of the air, rain and dust, sickening the Iraqi people without killing them immediately. Because the victims die one at a time, there are no headline news stories. Yet even in the early 1990’s there were reports of farmers’ fields strewn with bullets where nothing would grow, and children dying after playing with bullet casings. Relief organizations’ concerns were casually dismissed by Hillary Clinton at a meeting during her husband’s presidency. Like Madeleine Albright, she felt that the deaths of Iraqi children were “worth it.”
The way the US treats Iraqi people is worse than they treated the Black slaves, who at least were considered useful. The US has intentionally destroyed the future of more than one country. This is why getting our government to make the reparations necessary for a true peace will be difficult. The good news is that we now have Facebook, Twitter, and alternative news websites to bring the horrible news to people’s bedrooms and living rooms. In the 1990’s, political activists had to rely on subscription-only email lists and photocopied flyers. We now have the technology to go beyond preaching to the choir.
Many of us are exhausted from the relentlessness of international news reports of evil in the world. After subjecting ourselves to twenty or more years of sleepless nights, some of us are ready to say, “I tried,” and hand the heavy responsibility of knowledge to the next generation. Yet, our children cannot save the world without our guidance.
The problem of radioactive contamination is not going to go away by itself. Those who are interested in scientific experiments should embrace the very real challenge of cleaning up Iraq’s depleted uranium. It’s something no human generation has ever had to do before, and will require some very smart thinking individuals to come up with a plan.