Winter Wonderland

It’s snowing like hell as I sit typing in my apartment outside of Baltimore. I don’t live in a rural area by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems these days as if we are in the relative boonies. The white stuff began falling Friday night. There was a break, thankfully, on Saturday, but I ended up stuck here until about three in the afternoon, too late to be able to participate in the Baltimore peace rally. (And apparently, there were many in my snowshoes. Believe me, if I could have gotten out, I would have.) Happily, there were folks who could make it out. This comes from American Friends Service Committee-Baltimore’s Max Obuszewski:

“Remember Baltimore is a fair-weather town. A few inches of snow, and the school systems shut down. Nevertheless, despite the snow, cold and storm warnings, the people came out today in solidarity with the millions worldwide to say no to this crazy war. 

The Baltimore Peace Action Network [BPAN] on February 5 called for a solidarity action 10 days later. The people responded, as several hundred marched through downtown Baltimore for several miles from Camden Yards, a stadium built by the taxpayers, to City Hall, and then to St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, where Father Richard Lawrence gave us a rousing welcome.

Note the peace activists marched in the streets, without permit, to snub their noses at federal judges who denied a permit to march in New York City.

Subversive poetry and music was performed at St. Vincent’s, before the rest of the day was turned over to representatives from faith communities that took turns condemning war.”

We’ll present the details when they are available.

The snow made its reappearance last night and has continued to fall ever since. It’s a freaking blizzard! Churches, colleges, museums, and theaters have announced they are closed for the day. Forecasters say we will get about two feet of powder. My six-year-old is already going insane from a serious case of cabin fever. What I would give to be anywhere right now waving a placard for peace. Ah, yes, it’s a wonderland, all right.

Thank the goddess it isn’t snowing everywhere:

2/15 protest in Germany; photo by indymedia Millions — that’s right, millions — of people around the globe took to the streets to march, shout, and cry for peace. Indymedia is reporting 11 million! Antiwar.com has a list of estimates of the numbers of marchers in a wide variety of places. Some standout figures: Half a million in New York. More than a million in Rome. Thousands in Eastern Europe. At least 40,000 in South Africa. Thousands upon thousands in Latin America. IPS News has a roundup. As does the Independent Media Center. See loads of protest photos at Punchdown.

2/15 protest in NYC; photo from punchdown.org This weekend’s massive peace demonstrations all over the world are slowing the momentum of the US-led drive for war on Iraq and bolstering diplomatic bids for peaceful alternatives. This could not have come at a better time, because Europe is grappling with deep divisions over the Baghdad crisis. Perhaps our collective voices are having an impact.

French President Jacques Chirac is obviously listening to good sense: War, he says, “would create a large number of little bin Ladens.” And this comes from the leader of a country that proclaims that it isn’t pacifist. Hard to tell with all this Gallic good sense floating about…

Meanwhile, NATO continues its struggle to hammer out a solution to a damaging political rift over Iraq. There reportedly are signs of a possible face-saving compromise on the horizon — but diplomats warn that the talks could drag on. Still, it appears sentiment is leaning toward the left:The veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with heavyweight China, stood united in calling for strengthened arms inspections in Iraq, implicitly ruling out the use of military force after hearing the reports of lead UN arms inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei. (Among other things, Blix picked apart the US argument for attacking Iraq.) And Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the UN could issue a new resolution on Iraq.

And good advice comes from different parts of the planet. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told George Dubya Bush that war against Iraq was “not a good option.”

Howard Zinn spoke sensibly on war and peace with Bill Moyers on the journalist’s public-television news program last Friday. Here is a transcript.

And a papal envoy wants Saddam Hussein and the rest of the world to work for peace, not war.

Here is a first-person report from Iraq by Charlie Clements, a doctor and human-rights advocate, who graduated from the US Air Force Academy and the University of Washington School of Community Medicine and Public Health. Clements heads the Bartos Institute for the Constructive Engagement of Conflict at the United World College in Montezuma, NM. His article comes from portside (the left side in nautical parlance), a news, discussion and debate service of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

I am a public-health physician and a human-rights advocate. I have just returned from a 10-day emergency mission to Iraq with other public-health experts to assess the vulnerability of the civilian population to another war. I’m also a distinguished graduate of the USAF Academy and a Vietnam veteran, so I have some sense of the potential consequences of the air war we are about to unleash on Iraq as a prelude to the introduction of American troops. 

The population of Iraq has been reduced to the status of refugees. Nearly 60 percent of Iraqis, or almost 14 million people, depend entirely on a government-provided food ration that, by international standards, represents the minimum for human sustenance. Unemployment is greater than 50 percent, and the majority of those who are employed make between $4 and $8 a month. (The latter figure is the salary of a physician that works in a primary health center.) Most families are without economic resources, having sold off their possessions over the last decade to get by.

Hospital wards are filled with severely malnourished children, and much of the population has a marginal nutritional status. While visiting a children’s hospital, we were told about newly emerging diseases that had previously been controlled when pesticides were available. (Current sanctions prohibit their importation.) Later I saw a mother who had traveled 200 km with her young daughter, who suffered from leschmaniais, or “kala azar” as it is known there. She came to the hospital because she heard it had a supply of Pentostam, the medicine needed to treat the disease. The pediatrician told her there was none. Then he turned to me and, in English, said, “It would be kinder to shoot her here rather than let her go home and die the lingering death that awaits her”. Our interpreter, by instinct, translated the doctor’s comments into Arabic for the mother, whose eyes instantly overflowed with tears.

The food-distribution program funded by the UN, Oil-for-Food, is the world’s largest and is heavily dependent upon the transportation system, which will be one of the first targets of the war, as the US will attempt to sever transport routes to prevent Iraqi troop movements and interrupt military supplies. Yet even before the transportation system is hit, US aircraft will spread millions of graphite filaments in wind-dispersed munitions that will cause a complete paralysis of the nation’s electrical grids. Already literally held together with bailing wire because the country has been unable to obtain spare parts due to sanctions, the poorly functioning electrical system is essential to the public health infrastructure.

The water-treatment system, too, has been a victim of sanctions. Unable to import chlorine and aluminum sulfate (alum) to purify water, Iraq has already seen a 1000% increase in the incidence of some waterborne diseases. Typhoid cases, for instance, have increased from 2,200 in 1990 to more than 27,000 in 1999. In the aftermath of an air assault, Iraqis will not have potable water in their homes, and they will not have water to flush their toilets.

The sanitation system, which frequently backs up sewage ankle deep in Baghdad neighborhoods when the ailing pumps fail, will stop working entirely in the aftermath of the air attack. There will be epidemics as water treatment and water pumping will come to a halt. Even though it is against the Geneva Conventions to target infrastructure elements that primarily serve civilians, this prohibition did not give us pause in Gulf War I — and, based upon current Bush administration threats, will not this time. Pregnant women, malnourished children, and the elderly will be the first to succumb. UNICEF estimates that 500,000 more children died in Iraq in the decade following the Gulf War than died in the previous decade. These children are part of the “collateral damage” from the last war.

How many civilians will die in the next war? That is hard to say. One estimate for the last Gulf War was that 10,000 perished, mostly during the bombing campaign that led up to the invasion. That figure will surely climb because our government has promised that a cruise missile will strike Iraq every five minutes for the first 48 hours the war. These missiles will seek out military, intelligence, and security-force targets around highly populated areas like Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul, Iraq’s largest cities, where “collateral damage” is unavoidable. Unable to meet the acute medical needs of the country’s population now, the health-care system of Iraq will be overwhelmed by such an assault.

This scenario is conservative. I have not taken into account any use of weapons of mass destruction, or the possibility that the war will set loose massive civil disorder and bloodshed, as various groups within the country battle for power or revenge. I have also ignored what would happen if we became bogged down in house-to-house fighting in Baghdad, which could easily become another Mogidishu or Jenin.

There was a lot that made me angry on that trip. I have worked in war zones before and I have been with civilians as they were bombed by US-supplied aircraft, but I don’t think I’ve experienced anything on the magnitude of the catastrophe that awaits our attack in Iraq. Still, as deeply troubling as this looming human disaster is, another issue troubles me far more. If the US pursues this war without the backing of the UN Security Council, it will undermine a half-century of efforts by the world community to establish a foundation of humanitarian and human-rights law. Such an act on our part would also violate the UN Charter and make a mockery of the very institution we have helped to fashion in the hopes it would help prevent crimes against humanity. Many might define the consequences of such an attack on the population of Iraq as just that.

Saddam is a monster, there is no doubt about that. He needs to be contained. Yet many former UN weapons inspectors feel he has been “defanged”. His neighbors do not fear him any longer. There are many Iraqis who want him removed, but not by a war. Against the short-term gain of removing Saddam, we must take into account that idea that we may well unleash forces of hatred and resentment that will haunt us for decades to come in every corner of the world. I can just hear Osama Bin Laden saying now, “Please President Bush, attack Iraq. There’s nothing better you could do to help the cause of Al Qaeda!”

If this doesn’t move someone away from the path of war, I do not know what will.

Condoleezza Rice The Bushites, however, have their ears shut and their minds closed to anything resembling sense: US Secretary of State Colin Powell says war is weeks away. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice announced today that the US will abandon diplomatic efforts in the Iraq matter. Apparently, the Shrub has lost patience with using diplomacy and wants to see bullets fly. But the Commander-in-Thief is willing to stoop to using bribery to build a “coalition of the willing” — or, as Truthout accurately pegs it, a “coalition of the bought and paid for.” In other news, reports say the US will propose final tests to prove whether Iraq is truly ridding itself of weapons of mass destruction.

And then there is this. When the Shrub began his murderous campaign, a continual cry has been heard: Iraq is no threat unless you threaten it. The White House refused to listen to good judgment and made that threat. Now the Persian Gulf nation describes how it will respond if the US makes good on its violent vow. And Osama bin Laden wants his piece of the action too. Whatever happens, if there is war (and there is and will be, let’s be realistic), Americans will pay and pay big.

Big Blue Marble

Destruction continues in the Israel-Palestine conflict: Four Palestinians were killed when a mystery explosion ripped through a Gaza City house belonging to a member of the radical Islamic movement Hamas. In the northern Gaza Strip, four Israeli soldiers lost their lives in a massive bomb attack claimed by the Islamist Hamas movement and later by a tandem of Muslim and nationalist militants. And in the West Bank city of Nablus, another Palestinian was killed and eight more wounded in intense exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen.

In Sri Lanka, Tamil Tiger guerrillas broke a truce and shot dead a government soldier who moved into an area held by them in the northern portion of that country.

Now, this is twisted: North Korea marked leader Kim Jong-Il’s birthday with a call for its military to strengthen preparations for a US attack on the famine-hit Stalinist country. The Great Carnac has the question: “What do you get for the murderous dictator who has everything?” That isn’t all — North Korea has plans for four more nuclear reactors. I guess Kim Jong-Il was extra good this year.

Thanks to an International Monetary Fund-backed tax increase and newly implemented economic-austerity measures, say IMF critics, Bolivia last week was torn by riots that left at least 20 people dead and dozens injured.

Plans are under way for the next World Trade Organization meeting in Mexico. Organizers say informal talks that ended in Tokyo helped shed light on hot topics such as farming and cheaper drugs for poor countries.

Amnesty International, which this week ended its first-ever visit to Burma, called on its military government to release all political prisoners as proof that it is serious about improving the country’s human-rights climate.

Diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan hit a new low Saturday after the two neighbours, in dispute since 1947 over possession of the former princely state of Kashmir, expelled each other’s top envoys.

Newlywed Update

On Valentine’s Day, we passed on the story of a newly married pair of activists and their holiday venture to turn themselves in to authorities on an outstanding warrant as a gesture of resistance. Here is the latest:

Anti-war newlyweds given reprieve by judge 

ASHLAND – Newly married Molly and Jerry Mechtenberg-Berrigan turned themselves in to the Ashland County jail this afternoon, Valentine’s Day, carrying their 60-day jail warrants. But a local judge released the two.

“We called their bluff, and they blinked,” said Jerry about the unexpected turn of events. “Maybe the power of love touched the judge’s heart,” he said.

The two anti-war activists were sentenced to jail for refusing to pay $209.00 fines resulting from protests at the Navy’s submarine transmitter system, Project ELF, near Clam Lake.

The peace activists hoped to use their incarceration to bring attention to the use of Project ELF and the submarine fleet in the threatened Cruise missile attack on Iraq. However Ashland County Circuit Court Judge Robert Eaton vacated the jail warrants today while still demanding payment of the fines.

The ELF system sends messages to US submarines around the world. In Oct. 2001, Navy spokesman Richard Williamson said that if US subs fired Cruise missiles into Afghanistan, they would be getting orders from the Clam Lake facility. [“If American submarines patrolling waters of the Middle East get ordered to action, it’s likely that message, or at least part of it, will come by way of Clam Lake in northern Wisconsin.” Duluth News Tribune, “U.S. subs get orders out of Wisconsin station,” Oct. 4, 2001.]

A Pentagon spokesman told CBS News Feb. 8 that the military intends to fire up to 800 Cruise missiles into Iraq in the first two days of a US attack.

Since 1991, over 40 different nuclear-weapons opponents have served over four years in the Ashland county jail for refusing to pay trespass fines.

“In Sept. 1991 the County attorney decided to stop prosecuting ELF resisters. Now it seems the judge too is done making the County carry water for the war system,” said John LaForge, co-director of Nukewatch in Luck, WI, a peace group that has organized dozens of protests at the site.

On Tues., Jan. 28, Scott Mathern-Jacobson of Duluth was released from Ashland County jail after serving nine days on a similar nonpayment warrant. His wife, Reba Mathern-Jacobson, has a warrant identical to that of Molly Mechtenberg-Berrigan and wonders if her 60-day commitment order will also be vacated.

And here is an update on the efforts of Troy and Phillip, a loving Los Angeles couple that wanted to marry on Valentine’s Day. A Pennsylvania pair met a similar fate, but at least they, like the California couple, were warmed by love.

What Next?

Why, we continue to make the cause of peace visible. What other choice do we have? Shrub isn’t giving up his villainy, so we must continue our struggle for good. Vote NoWar.org reports that on March 1, there will be an Emergency Convergence on the White House in Washington, DC. As George Bush evaluates whether he can defy the will of the people and plunge ahead with his criminal war plans, it is time for peace-loving people to make it clear that he can not proceed on this path. At the White House convergence on March 1, thousands of people will demand No War on Iraq. They will also call for George Bush to be impeached for crimes committed in planning and executing war abroad and assaulting constitutionally protected civil rights and civil liberties at home. Make plans now to attend. Pray it doesn’t snow. And in the meantime, write to members of the UN Security Council and urge them to veto any initiative that will lead to war. Check out The Armchair Activist’s Alert of the Day (and likely tomorrow too, it’s so important) and get busy. And pass the info on to your anti-war and progressive friends and associates.

Keeping Warm

As the blizzard of ’03 continues, we’re going to keep warm with savory, spicy curried goat. I am cooking as we speak — on the stove, my huge “everything pot” is filled with goat pieces, potatoes, spices, and more at hard simmer, where the whole will remain for the next couple of hours. I figure that in the meantime, this recipe of mine — a curry including whatever I happened to have in the cupboard (a must when one is snowed in) when this enterprise began yesterday — was worth sharing, especially with those who, like us, are dealing with being snowbound. Poke around your cabinets and see what you can find. By the way, this recipe works equally well with beef, chicken, or veggies (however veggies and chicken will simmer for a lot less time, and only the goat requires overnight marinating).

Nat’s Snowbound Goat Curry 

Ingredients

3 pounds goat stew meat cut into medium-sized cubes
1 large onion, sliced
8 ounces of spaghetti sauce
1 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons garlic powder
6 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons red pepper
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (non-dairy? substitute 3 tbsp. canola or safflower oil)
Water
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
1 pound baby carrots
1 cup dried split peas

If you’re using goat: In a large bowl, place goat meat (today I’m using goat back meat, which offers lots of meat and lots of bone, which makes for good flavor), chopped onions, spaghetti sauce (or chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, paste, or puree; whatever you have on hand), ginger, cloves, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, red pepper, Old Bay seasoning, salt, and black pepper. Mix well, cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove meat from the marinade. Save the marinade.

(Start here if you’re using something other than goat; goat-cookers continue forth.) In a large pan, brown the meat/veggies in the canola oil until golden brown. When you’ve finished browning the meat/veggies, pour the excess fat from the pan. Add butter to the pan, along with the reserved marinade (OR, for the non-goat-cookers add chopped onions, spaghetti sauce, ginger, cloves, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, red pepper, Old Bay seasoning, salt, and black pepper), and cook for a few minutes, until butter is melted and the resulting sauce is smooth. Pour in enough water to just cover the meat/veggies and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, carrots, and split peas (and/or whatever veggies you like). Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the sauce is suitably thickened. Remove cover about halfway through. (Suggested timetables: veggies or chicken, 30-45 minutes; beef or goat, 2 or more hours — I generally let my goat curry simmer for three hours.) Season with salt to taste; if you want it hotter, add hot sauce or red pepper. Serve with white, yellow, or basmati rice. Makes four generous servings.

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