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Broader foreign policy News

An interesting evening with Reese Erlich and Ali Shakeri

On Friday I was at the First Unitarian Church to listen to Reese Erlich and Ali Shakeri talk about the political situation in Iran (sorry, no pictures). They both shared useful information about the past and present of Iran, and I was a bit frightened by Erlich’s observation that even with our over-extended military, the Bush administration may think it can get away with military action because we would focus on bombing them from afar, using our Navy and Air Force, which are not as overtaxed by our occupation of Iraq as our ground forces are. As foolish as it seems — after all, Iran is nowhere near being able to produce a nuclear weapon — we didn’t invade Iraq and Afghanistan because they posed a direct threat either.

I was also intrigued by Erlich’s description of the U.S.’s twisted relationship with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). At times it would appear that we have materially supported their terrorist attacks against Iran (see his interview with Amy Goodman), while verbally condemning their terrorist attacks against Turkey. It’s easy to see how frustrating this is for the government of Turkey, as well as those of us who want a coherent, rational foreign policy that rejects terrorism and war as a way to achieve change. And now I just found that Sunday, Turkey attacked and killed 50-60 peoplein Iraq they believe to be the PKK… Bush has been counseling restraint to Turkey in the face of these attacks against Turkey by the PKK.

On another note… when Ali Shakeri spoke, I was especially moved by his account of this time in solitary confinement (what we would call a control unit here in the United States) and the depravity of the practice. Shakeri was one of several people taken into custody at the same time, and he was held the longest. It has everything to do with his political perspective, which calls for peaceful change (which, I guess is dangerous to some folks in Tehran), and the relative lack of attention that his detention got. He talked about how important it was for him not to become embittered by his experience of living alone in a bare cell for 140 days.  I was inspired and heartened to hear him speak, since yes, one important part of peace work is not holding grudges, even when they might seem to make sense.

Both speakers pointed out the importance of people speaking up in every way possible so that the current administration does not think that we will let them get away with military action against Iran. Shakeri suggested that we all take time to contact our senators and representatives to tell them that we disagree with military action against Iran.

The church that hosted this event, the First Unitarian Church, will host a gathering if the U.S. takes military action against Iran. If it’s in the news that we have attacked Iran before 4 PM on a particular day, gather that evening in the church. If it is on the news after 4 PM, come to the church the next evening so that we can strategize a response and support each other.

The church member who announced this also expressed her wish that we might never have to do this. Let’s hope it’s so.

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Broader foreign policy Resources

Latest human rights report from Iraq reveals a nightmare

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq released their latest report earlier this month, relaying a grim vision of the violence and deaths that are part of daily life in Iraq since our invasion. The report covers a wide range of human rights issues in the period from April – June of this year:

  • Killings of civilians in airstrikes by the US-led forces and by guns-for-hire like Blackwater, followed by “investigations” whose results are not released to the public (page 9)
  • The status of women, who are targeted for honor killings and other violence (page 14)
  • Imprisonment of people — in some cases for months without charges (page 20)
  • Bombs and other killings in Iraq’s civil war (page 7)
  • Over 100 executions of Iraqis since the installation of the new US-approved government (page 32)

The report is hard to read… but, I suppose, not as hard as it is to live. It’s no wonder, that some people would insist that our government leaders who have planned this occupation and continue to prolong it, such as Condaleeza Rice, are war criminals.

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Broader foreign policy Things We Can Do

We don’t need no stinkin’ gag rule

I finally cleaned up my email in box after my stint offline, and discovered that NARAL has been bombarding me with email for a good cause — overturning the president’s global gag rule that limits money for women’s health care in other countries if he doesn’t like the providers. The problem? Some medical providers give women options like condoms.

That’s right, if a health care provider wants to offer women a full range of reproductive choices, then apparently, the way this administration thinks, we should not give them money. Instead we should give the money to someone who will give women fewer options. Or, even better, we can just not give anyone money for health care for poor women in other countries and instead use the money to invade countries and kill women and children.

Hmmmn… I wonder if I’m feeling a little cynical maybe. But, if you have a moment, they want you to write a letter to the editor. I would do it, but I just had one printed about living in one of Portland’s exclusion zones (see my last post). The Oregonian has reached the limit on letters, but there’s still our neighbor to the north, the Columbian.
One piece of good news about this: for a change, Senator Gordon Smith is voting based on what Oregon wants instead of what his political party expects. When the Senate voted in September, on a bill to end the gag rule Senator Smith voted to lift the gag rule. This is now on the list of things that we’re going to see can override a presidential veto.

So, what are you waiting for? Write a letter and tell Congress, “we don’t need no stinkin’ gag rule.”