[Mb-civic] report from an Iraqi in Baghdad....and the "Marginalized Majority

ean at sbcglobal.net ean at sbcglobal.net
Sun Sep 26 13:26:13 PDT 2004

Two more excellent pieces for you to read, forwarded from Ed Pearl.  The 
first is another in an occasional series of reports from an Iraqi woman living in 
Baghdad.....and the second about today's "silent majority."

Baghdad Burning--http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/
.. I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls 
can mend..
Friday, September 24, 2004

Liar, Liar...
I was channel-surfing yesterday evening- trying to find something interesting 
to watch. I flipped vaguely to Al-Arabia and Bush's inane smile suddenly 
flashed across the screen. Now, normally, as soon as I see his face, I 
instantly change channels and try to find something that doesn't make me 
quite as angry. This time, I stopped to watch as Allawi's pudgy person came 
into view. It's always quite a scene- Bush with one of the alledged leaders of 
the New Iraq. 

I prepared myself for several minutes of nausea as Bush began speaking. He 
irritates me like no one else can. Imagine long nails across a chalk board, 
Styrofoam being rubbed in hands, shrieking babies, barking dogs, grinding 
teeth, dripping faucets, honking horns,all together, all at once, and you will 
imagine the impact his voice has on my ears. 

I sat listening, trying not to focus too much on his face, but rather on the 
garbage he was reiterating for at least the thousandth time since the war. I 
don't usually talk back to the television, but I really can't help myself when 
Bush is onscreen. I sit there talking back to him- calling him a liar, calling him 
an idiot, wondering how exactly he got so far and how they're allowing him to 
run for re-election. E. sat next to me on the couch, peeved, "Why are we 
even watching this?!" He made a jump for the remote control (which I clutch 
to shake at the television to emphasize particular points)- a brief struggle 
ensued and Riverbend came out victorious. 

You know things are really going downhill in Iraq, when the Bush speech-
writers have to recycle his old speeches. Listening to him yesterday, one 
might think he was simply copying and pasting bits and pieces from the older 
stuff. My favorite part was when he claimed, "Electricity has been restored 
above pre-war levels..." Even E. had to laugh at that one. A few days ago, 
most of Baghdad was in the dark for over 24 hours and lately, on our better 
days, we get about 12 hours of electricity. Bush got it wrong (or Allawi 
explained it to incorrectly)- the electricity is drastically less than pre-war 
levels, but the electricity BILL is way above pre-war levels. Congratulations 
Iraqis on THAT!! Our electricity bill was painful last month. Before the war, 
Iraqis might pay an average of around 5,000 Iraqi Dinars a month for 
electricity (the equivalent back then of $2.50) - summer or winter. Now, it's 
quite common to get bills above 70,000 Iraqi Dinars... for half-time electricity. 

After Bush finished his piece about the glamorous changes in Iraq, Allawi got 
his turn. I can't seem to decide what is worse- when Bush speaks in the 
name of Iraqi people, or when Allawi does. Yesterday's speech was 
particularly embarrassing. He stood there groveling in front of the congress- 
thanking them for the war, the occupation and the thousands of Iraqi lives 
lost... and he did it all on behalf of the Iraqi people. It was infuriating and for 
maybe the hundredth time this year, I felt rage. Yet another exile thanking the 
Bush administration for the catastrophe we're trying to cope with. Our 
politicians are outside of the country 90% of the time (by the way, if anyone 
has any news of our president Ghazi Ajeel Al Yawir, do let us know- where 
was he last seen or heard?), the security situation is a joke, the press are 
shutting down and pulling out and our beloved exiles are painting rosey 
pictures for the American public- you know- so everyone who voted for Bush 
can sleep at night.

Allawi actually said "thank you" nine times. Nine times. It really should have 
been more- at least double that number of Iraqis died yesterday... and about 
five times that number the day before. Looking back on the last month alone, 
over 350 Iraqis have been killed either by American air strikes, fighting, or 
bombs... only 9 thank yous? 

The elections are already a standard joke. There's talk of holding elections 
only in certain places where it will be 'safe' to hold them. One wonders what 
exactly comprises 'safe' in Iraq today. Does 'safe' mean the provinces that 
are seeing fewer attacks on American troops? Or does 'safe' mean the areas 
where the abduction of foreigners isn't occurring? Or could 'safe' mean the 
areas that *won't* vote for an Islamic republic and *will* vote for Allawi? Who 
will be allowed to choose these places? Right now, Baghdad is quite unsafe. 
We see daily abductions, killings, bombings and Al-Sadr City, slums of 
Baghdad, see air strikes... will they hold elections in Baghdad? Imagine, 
Bush being allowed to hold elections in 'safe' areas- like Texas and Florida. 

The hostage situations are terrible. Everyone is wondering and conjecturing 
about the Italian hostages. Are they really dead? Is it possible? Seeing the 
family of the British hostage on TV is quite painful. I wonder if they'll forever 
hate Iraqis after this. I saw the plea they made on CNN, asking the abductors 
to be merciful. Dozens of Iraqis are abducted daily and no one really knows 
who is behind it. Some blame it on certain Islamic groups, others on certain 
political groups- like Chalabi's, for example. It's hardly shocking, considering 
our own PM, Allawi, was, by his own admission, responsible for bombings 
and assassinations inside of Iraq- there is some interesting information here. 

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

David Swanson.org - Sept 24, 2004

What Can a Marginalized Majority Do?

By David Swanson

Universal health care is favored by most Americans, but proposing to create
it is deemed politically foolish. Restoring value to the minimum wage would
meet with approval from the vast majority of us, but politicians who make it
a priority are considered a little flaky. Investing in public schools is
one of our top priorities, but we're told the money's just not there and
that we should focus on offering children other choices -- we have to be
practical. Most of the money that isn't there has gone to corporations in
the form of tax cuts and sweetheart contracts, because we need to boost the
economy, but the result is longer hours and less job security. Is it me, or
is something a little bit funny going on?

Time and again popular opinion is stymied in our democracy. Important
majority opinions are shut out of the debate. And yet we long for someone
with the "integrity" to do what he or she believes regardless of popular
opinion. We support workers' rights and environmental protections. We
don't want multinational corporations forcing our government to turn our
public water supply private, and yet the trade officials discussing the
latest treaties seem more reasonable than the violent kids in the street
with black eye liner and multiple nose piercings. What are we to think
about a democracy where the majority is marginal, and what can we do about
it anyway?

We could figure out exactly what we want, organize it in a neat platform,
put it on a poster, and stand out on the corner shouting. But people who
tell us we have the power to change things usually seem to be mistaken or
intentionally dishonest.

Personally, I think we do have the potential to change things, but only if
we're willing to face without flinching what it is that's been going so
wrong. It's not pretty to look at. And as soon as you stop and look at it
and start pointing things out and talking about it you sound like you're
exaggerating, and you feel you're about to be called a conspiracy theorist.
And yet some explanation is needed for why a democracy would fight a war
based on lies, or pass endless tax cuts for millionaires when most of us
have a hard time reaching our parents' living standard and many of us who
work fulltime cannot afford a house.

How can we explain that people who value fairness and equal rights are
frittering them away? We have to explain it without fear of being called
extremist, secure in the knowledge that we'll all be called extremists
together, the whole country minus a handful of corrupt CEOs, lobbyists, and
other suffering souls.

A large percentage of Americans believe that Iraq caused 9-11, that national
health care would give us Stalinist Russia, that labor unions are a thing of
the past, that the estate tax caused families to lose their farms, and that
global warming is "just a theory." They don't believe these things because
they're stupid, but because the news media tells them these lies and others
like them every day. Not everyone has time to do their own research to
verify whether what they see on the news is true.

Sometimes lies dominate news reports because those who know better fail to
make their case effectively. Other times, the best PR work by people on our
side of the matter is no match for the fact that some of the largest
corporations in the country own the media. We talk about how the public
owns the airwaves, and it does say that on a piece of paper somewhere in
Washington, but companies like Viacom and Clear Channel have complete
control over what goes out on "our" airwaves. They are no longer required
to devote even token time to important public issues or fair representation
of differing viewpoints. The corporate media has become a cancer in our
democracy. We must focus our efforts on reforming it and on building our
own media in order to talk around it.

Controlling our own media allows us to think differently about current
events and begin to see how strangely we usually talk about them. If you
were creating a newspaper, would you call job losses and lowered wages a
"recovery"? Would you ever use the phrase "jobless recovery"? If you were
writing about our tax system, would you focus exclusively on the rising cost
of things people find useful, like Social Security, education, and health
care, and say nothing about weapons systems that don't work but drain
billions of dollars? Would you call the political party that always boosts
spending, shifts the tax burden onto working families, and puts the nation
into debt "conservative"? Would you call the party that traditionally has
been most willing to restrain the biggest area of spending (the military)
and to tax the biggest earners (corporations) "liberal"?

If you try thinking as if you are the millionaire anchorman with the makeup
and the pretend notes on your desk, but that you are going to break all
conventions that impinge on straightforward honesty, a sharp clarity can
come to you. You can begin to cut through the manufactured fear and false
patriotism that drive so much media discourse. But then, you should
realize, as well, that you are not the only one who can do this, that most
of your fellow citizens are as insightful as you are.

Majority rule would not be the rule of fools but the rule of those who, like
you, want to live in a just society, earn a living wage and a secure
retirement, and contribute to a country that will be at least as good for
our grandchildren as what our grandparents left us. Majority rule would
shift taxes toward investors and away from people who work for a living.
Majority rule would probably have spared us the PATRIOT Act and the 
war. With majority rule, you would never have to deal with an HMO again.

But why don't we have majority rule? What prevents it, other than unfair
and imbalanced media? Part of the explanation has to be our undemocratic
election system. We make people jump through hoops to get registered to
vote. We don't make Election Day a holiday or require that employers give
workers time off to vote. We elect our President through an electoral
college that gives voters in some states more say than those in others but
voters in all states little reason to vote for any candidate not likely to
win the entire state. We don't allow voters to mark their first choice,
second choice, and third choice, so that if their first choice is not a
contender their vote can still shape the outcome. And we allow an elaborate
system of legalized bribery to shut out of elections anyone who is not
fabulously wealthy or willing to do the bidding of those who are.

The candidates who succeed in this system have been moving further and
further into what used to be called an extreme position, but which we now
call central because the center is wherever those in power have moved. 
candidates want to gamble Social Security on the stock market, amputate
sections of the Bill of Rights, push the Middle East toward all-out war,
legalize torture, and drive the cost of health care further out of reach. 
We're afraid to call these plunderers of public wealth by name. We treat
their positions with respect and offer our disagreements on technical
grounds. We're then labeled both leftist and wishy-washy. Instead we
should be rejecting the rip-offs of war-mongering robber barons without
pulling any punches.

The road we have to travel cannot possibly be smooth. On August 23, 2004,
Bush pushed through the biggest pay cut in U.S. history by changing 
overtime rules to remove the right to time-and-a-half pay for overtime from at 
least 6 million people. Lots of well organized groups and PR professionals 
tried to pull back the curtain on this scheme and the lies being used to 
promote it. The rally held in protest could have been much bigger. But after 
the largest peace, women's rights, fair trade, and immigrants' rights rallies
ever held failed to move Bush an inch, it's not clear what the impact would
have been. The major media buried the story.

And yet, people found out by other means and successfully pressured both
houses of Congress to reverse the pay cut. (Whether the bill gets out of
conference committee intact and Bush backs off his promise to veto it
remains to be seen.) The important fact is that despite it all, popular
opinion went its own way, not that of the Department of Labor or of the
media. It's an amazing accomplishment. Single-payer health care, a system
in which the government covers everyone for less than we now waste on
private insurance bureaucracies, is completely off the media's radar screen.
And yet it is favored by a majority of Americans in recent polls. We're
much smarter and better informed than we're given credit for. That is the
source of the power we do possess and need to recognize.

And we're much more serious than we're described. We care about more 
than celebrity scandals. When we're thrown a tiny tax cut followed by huge
budget cuts in schools, fire and rescue, workplace safety, and parks and
recreation, and then our state and local taxes go up and our job goes off to
China, we know that we've been had.

When things get tough it's tempting to blame somebody. Increasingly, we're
smart enough to blame the elected officials who enacted the harmful
policies. They may ask us to blame gay people or feminists or terrorists.
They may tell us that if we blame those in power then we ourselves will be
supporting terrorists. They may warn us that if we oppose them then
terrorists will attack us. To that threat we respond as follows:

The American people will not negotiate with anyone threatening terror. We
have a new world to build, and if you want to keep dragging us back into the
old one we're going to have to ask you to kindly get out of the way.

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