Friday, March 07, 2008

In the closet with John and Cathy

We were at "The Nation" magazine, in the closet. I kept looking around for self-loathing lesbian Laura Flanders but I saw were The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel's mountains and mountains of fur coats. It was as if someone had shaved Cathy Pollitt's legs and made a few coats.

Cathy Pollitt was in the closet too, digging around her purse for a stray Ding Dong or Twinkee and muttering about "low blood sugar" while John Nichols whimpered and attempted to stop the blood flowing from his torn nipple -- or at least the half not attached to the hall carpet via the paper clip he'd used as a nipple ring.

We were all in the closet because Katrina had breezed in on a weekend. Somewhere, a ground hog must be seeing it's shadow.

In the world outside the closet, Katrina was searching for her copy of "How We Take Over" -- not knowing that I had tucked it inside my purse. We could hear her cursing and making noises about how Peter Rothberg was going to be on toilet cleaning duties all week if the book didn't turn up. She was muttering about how "good help is so hard to train."

John Nichols was sobbing and biting his lower lip. I wasn't sure if he was scared, in pain or a combination of the two. Cathy had found a package of Starburts and, due to nerves or hunger, slammed the whole thing in her mouth without unwrapping it.

The phone rang.

We heard Katrina yell for someone to get the phone and we guessed she must not be used to life outside her Harlem mansion. We heard her clomp over and pick up the phone.

"HELLO!" she screamed.

"What? Oh my God. How awful. That is so awful."

We all looked at each other thinking someone had died.

We quickly discovered that War Hawk Samantha Power had left the Obama campaign after smearing Hillary Clinton and the poor in America. It is said that every time a Sammy Power is born, the devil gets a shiny new pitchfork.

Katrina was off the phone and talking excitedly to herself. Well, she needs at least one friend.

"This is it, Katri, this is it!" she told herself. "This is where you swoop in! Sure you don't know about anything but Russia but neither did Condi Rice and look how far she got! This is your big moment. You seize it, darling. You deserve it. You were born to do it."

Having convinced herself, we heard her leave the office and breathed a sigh of relief. We were just about to exit the closet when we heard her hurry back in saying, "I just need my white fur! That will seal the deal!"

The furs were all in the closet!

I looked at Cathy Pollitt and John Nichols.

Immediately, I dove to the back of the closet and Cathy Pollitt, possibly thinking there was a smoked ham hidden back there, followed me.

But John Nichols was paralyzed by fear.

We whispered to him.

We hissed at him.

He couldn't budge.

The door opened.

Katrina gasped.

"John Nichols! What are you doing in my closet! Listen, little mister, if you've been trying on my furs, you better not have gotten any fluids -- you know what I mean -- on them. Get out of that closet, you little candy ass!"

Slowly John started to move. Cathy and I looked at one another nervously.

Now that he'd been caught, would he rat us out?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, March 7, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, War Hawk Sammy Power Down and taking the Obama campaign with her, International Women's Day, Bambi's not so 'anti-war' and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Julie Muhlstein (HeraldNet) reports that Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimber's documentary Soldiers of Conscience will be shown at 10:30 Saturday morning in the Historic Everett Theatre as part of the Everett Women's Film Festival. "Their country asked them to kill, their hearts told them to stop" is the tagline in some promotional materials for the film that won Best Documentary at both the Rhode Island International Film Festival and Ireland's Foyle Film Festival. Ryan (co-director and co-producer) will be present Saturday as part of the filmmaker forum. Among those featured in the documentary is war resister Aidan Delgado who told his story of serving in Iraq and rejecting the illegal war in The Sutras Of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq. In the book, Delgado explains how he knew the whispers of abuse at Abu Ghraib weren't false speculation -- they're all called in for a speech by a commander:

There's no doubt now that everything we've heard about is true, and it must be even worse than we thought, for the commander himself to get on our backs about it. All a family? I laugh. We're only a family when the captain wants us to do his bidding or conceal some wrongdoing. The Army has tried that rhetoric before, talking about family and Army pride and everything else to try to get you to buy into what they do. When the Army talks about "handling something internally," it's only because they've done something so obviously wrong, they can't allow the rest of the country to see it. This doesn't surprise me. After all, if Americans back home saw Iraqi prisoners shot dead for throwing stones, saw the wretched conditions inside Abu, or saw the way the MPs dealt with the prisoners, what would they think of our glorious and righteous invasion? The truth about Abu Ghraib has to be concealed, has to be "kept in the family," because if the average citizen saw what we're doing to the people here, they would know in their guts that it's un-American.

Delgado's journey doesn't begin in the excerpt (read the book) and every war resister has a moment where they realize they can't take part in the illegal war. For some, it may be after they serve in Iraq and see it with their own eyes, for others it may come as they begin exploring the 'reasons' given for the Iraq War, some have a religous awakening . . . Every individual has their own story and these are the stories that are not being told.

Among the stories that need to be told due to a window of time are the stories of war resisters who went to Canada. They were dealt a serious set-back when the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of
Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters have, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. That is the sort of thing that should receive attention but instead it's ignored.There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).Meanwhile IVAW has a DC action this month:In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & AfghanistanMarch 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh will, of course, be participating and he explains why at his site, "But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn't live with ourselves if weren't doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible. The environment may be unking, but that is why I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won't be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it." The hearings will be broadcast throughout at the Iraq Veterans Against the War home page an on KPFA March 14th and 16th with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz hosting and the KPFA live stream will also be available at Glantz' War Comes Home.

Today, at
Foreign Policy in Focus, Aaron Glantz reports more on the upcoming action:

"We have given a blanket invitation to Congress," said Camilo Mejia, the Chair of the Board of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "We hope the Congress will give these hearings the same attention they did during the Vietnam era."
But action from politicians is only one possible outcome. Mejia says IVAW also hopes Winter Soldier will increase the size and strength of GI Resistance against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The event is going to empower soldiers to follow their conscience whatever that means for them," said Mejia . . . "The kinds of things we're talking about are non-partisan. They're non-political. They have to do with human being trapped in this atrocity producing situation."

Meanwhile, it was not a good day to be
Our Modern Day Carrie Nations or, as Samantha Power prefers to be called, "the humanitarian War Hawk." Last night, The Scotsman was making news with Power's insults of US Senator Hillary Clinton and "the poor" in America and, generally, just flashing that foul mouth everyone knows about but generally ignroes. The morning started with Sammy Power expressing 'sorrow.' She wasn't sorry and we're not going to play around with this story. Here's reality, the press was lining up this morning the stories on this and talking to one another (as they are prone to do) for background examples of other times Sammy Power has personally (and destructively) insulted Hillary Clinton. When it was obvious that those stories would come out if she stayed with the campaign she 'resigned.' At The New Statesman, she was flaunting her War Hawk nature in an interview (as well as that foul mouth). [Personal note: I'm sure I could match Sammy swear word for swear word, but I wasn't planning on becoming Secretary of State.] Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times) was one of the first out of the gate noting that Sammy Power "resigned as a foreign policy advisor to Sen. Barack Obama" this afternoon. Her calling Hillary a "monster" did matter, it was off sides -- both for a future Secretary of State as well as for a professor at Harvard. It's a shame Obama still lacks the leadership to take control of his campaign -- that would have required firing Power. Instead she resigned indicating that he's unable to run a campaign as well as unable to tell the truth. Power -- who also went to work for Obama in 2005 when he was first elected to the US Senate (November 2004) -- also had to deal with the BBC interview she'd given. Barack Obama has not promised to pull ALL troops out of Iraq in 16 months. He has promised the American people that "combat" troops would be removed. But promises, promises (as Dionne Warwick once sang) . . .

Stephen Sackur: You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?

Samantha Power: You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator.

Which would mean Mr. Pretty Speeches has been lying to the American people. (Add the "AGAIN!")

Her rise was swift, her fall even faster. Our Modern Day Carrie Nations took part in the "Bring the troops home and send them to Darfur" nonsense. [For more on that nutso crowd, see Julie Hollar's "
The Humanitarian Tempatation" (Extra!).] Despite presenting herself recently as against the Iraq War from the start, the public record has never backed that up. But it is true that she wanted wars in Africa and was selling them under "humanitarian" guise. "Stop the killing!" she cried but if she really wanted to stop the killing, she might have tried to speak out against the ongoing genocie in Iraq (which has also produced the largest refugee crisis in the world). She didn't care about that. Probably because it demonstrates that sending armed forces in is not an answer. Again, if Barack Obama had any leadership abilities, he would have announced today that he fired his longterm advisor. He did not, she resigned. (She foolishly doesn't grasp that this is her Alexander Haig moment and there is no comeback.) Power was not a campaigner, she was a high level, longterm foreign policy advisor being groomed to be the next Secretary of State. As Krissah Williams (Washington Post) notes, Senator Clinton's response to Power's BBC interview was to note Power's agreement that Obama's pledge to have "combat" troops out in 16 months was never more than a "best-case scenario". Hillary Clinton: "Senator Obama has made his speech opposing Iraq in 2002 and the war in Iraq the core of his campaign, which makes these comments especially troubling. While Senator Obama campaigns on his [pledge] to end the war, his top advisers tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president. This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another. You saw this with NAFTA as well."

Meanwhile Tom Hayden again offers Barack advice from the heart, from love. At
Common Dreams, Hayden feels that, "The only policy difference favoring Obama that goes straight to the issue of 'experience' is Iraq. It no longer is enough that Obama opposed the war five years ago, especially if it appears that there are no differences between the candidates now. For whatever reason, Obama has allowed Clinton to appear to take an identical stand on the war. Is that true? Or is it time for Obama to issue a further clarification of his position separating him from both Clinton and McCain? The peace movement and media can play a role here." Tom then asks, "Does Clinton propose a timetable for withdrawing combat troops, like Obama does?" Apparently Tom missed Sammy's interview -- Obama has no proposal. As Sammy notes, things change, who can say? Should we expect Hayden's endorsement of Hillary anytime soon? Or will he again plan to 'represent' the peace movement by covering for the 'anti-war' candidate -- one whose own foreign policy advisor (she was that when she gave the interview) informs is saying words he'd not planning to live up to?

Meanwhile violence continues in Iraq . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Mosul roadside bombings that wounded fourteen people and claimed the life of 1 police officer and a Mosul car bombing that claimed the lives of 4 police officers and left thirty-three people wounded.


Reuters notes US forces in Samarra "killed eight suspected al Qaeda fighters" (and they note the death toll from yesterday's Baghdad bombings rose to 68).


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is in Turkey for day one of a two-day visit.
Zerin Elci (Reuters) reports that he has "pledged Iraq's backing for Turkey in its fight against Kurdish PKK rebels on Friday, just one week after Ankara ended a major army ground offensive against the guerrillas in northern Iraq." That's where Talabani is, where's Moqtada al-Sadr? Earlier today, Khaled Farhan (Reuters) reported:Powerful Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has not been seen in public for months, issued an unusual statement on Friday explaining his absence to his followers and admitting splits in his movement."I swear that I live with you and among you. I am a part of you. I will not change this unless death separates us," he said in a two-page statement bearing his personal stamp.The statement was issued two weeks after Sadr extended a ceasefire by his Mehdi Army for another six months. He first called on the militia, blamed by the U.S. military and Sunni Arabs for fuelling sectarian violence, to halt its activities in August so that he could reorganise it.

BBC notes, "May of his followers had split from him 'for materalistic reasons or because they wanted to be independent,' he said" in the statement. While Sadr City residents feel targeted, al-Sadr's not there. He's renewed a cease-fire/truce that the residents didn't favor and the attitude then (which is only growing) is, "Why should we listen to someone who's not even here standing with us?" (He's rumored to be in Najaf, working as a hotel clerk.) A "leader" has to be seen as standing with (and suffering with) the people. al-Sadr is not seen as such currently and his little 'gift' of a message won't have much impact. Already the rumbles have moved on to wonder if he is collaborating with the US and every day he is out of Sadr City, he is futher weakened. That isn't at all surprising and any student of history could have seen it coming. In his absence, the rumors circulate and issuing 'press releases' to the residents of Sadr City will not raise his standing.

And we'll close with one topic. Saturday is International Women's Day.
Feminist Wire Daily explains, "International Women's Day (IWD) will be celebrated this Saturday across the world. According to the IWD website, this year marks the 97th annual celebration. Counties including Armenia, Russia, and Vietnam recognize IWD as an official holiday, but hundreds of celebrations happen all over the world on March 8th." and arrives as Women for Women International has released a new study on Iraqi women. Zainab Salbi writes in the introduction to [PDF format warning] "Stronger Women, Stronger Nations: 2008 Iraq Report:"

In Iraq, violence against women increased within months of March 2003 U.S. invasion. There were assassinations and abductions of Iraqi professional women, in the country and abroad. Hair salons were bombed, and there were threats to women who drove or didn't cover their hair. Soon every politician, businessperson, professional Iraqi and foreigner became vulnerable to kidnapping and attack and remains so today. This issue has become menacing enough to impede development efforts in the country. But the increasingly precarious status of women was and continues to be seen as a secondary issue, a distraction from the bigger political debates.
Since 2003, the discussion of women's role in Iraqi society and their earnest participation in reconstruction has shrunk from one of legitimate substance to obligatory quantity. In 2004, as plans for Iraq's new constitution were underway and "women's issues" were designated as a priority, the initial request of setting aside 40 percent of the seats in parliament for women was negotiated down to 25 percent.
[. . .]
Once the fighting ends, it is women who pick up the pieces of their families and mend the social fabric of their communities. Yet this crucial role is rarely acknowledged. Sustainable peace, democracy and economic development depend on women's social, political and economic participation. Unless there is a clear understanding of the obstacles and avenues to women's access to development resources and the political will to enact gender equitable policies, any blueprint for sustainable peace risks being place perilously out of reach. Thus, the incorporation of women's views into traditionally male-dominated political processes is vital to achieving sustainable peace, democracy, and prosperity.

Of course, to believe that, you'd have to believe that women matter, you'd have to accept the realities of the gender barriers worldwide and you'd have to grasp how under attack all women are, every day, around the globe. If you're a woman, you'd also have to have at least a little self-respect. As evidenced by the non-stop attacks on Hillary Clinton coming from so many and the refusal of women in the United States who do not support Hillary to call these attacks out, women still don't matter in the United States and Bash the Bitch remains the national pasttime.

The report informs that in 2004, 90.6 percent of Iraqi women surveyed were "optimistic about the future" and that, in 2007, the number stating they were optimistic fell to 26.9 percent. 88 percent of respondents "expressed a great deal of concern that they or someone living in their households would become a victim of violence." In addition, the number stating that the presence of US forces and British forces were making things worse was 65.3 percent and 67.9 percent "stated that their ability to walk down the street as they please has gotten worse since the U.S. invasion." As the illegal war hits the fifth year mark this year, things are not improving, they are only getting worse. The report details the hazards of just conducting the survey with details such as "For security reasons, women in Al-Sadr City, Al-Kamalyah, and Al-Ubadi gathered in groups of five in a woman's home and met with a staff member to complete the questionnaire." The respondents repeatedly cited the following as "the biggest problems facing Iraq as a whole":

* High/rising prices
* Housing availability/prices
* Lack of security
* US occupation/presence

On basic issues of mobility, the illegal war has had a huge impace: "86.0% of respondents said they are not able to walk down the street as they please; 67.9% of respondents stated that their ability to walkd won the street as they please has gotten worse since the U.S. invasion; 68.3% of women are not able to drive a car; 53.7% of respondents say that their ability to drive a car has gotten worse since the U.S. invasion; 48.6% of respondents said that they are not able to work outside the home; and 56.7% of respondents said that their ability to work outside the home has gotten worse since the U.S. invasion." As a result, 74.5 percent of Iraqi women now avoid leaving the home, 63.2 percent are not allowing their children to go to school ("most commonly in parts of Baghdad"), 38.5 percent say rape is increasing, 30.4 percent see an increase in the trafficking of women, 29.6 percent see an increase in prostitution. Why is that? The three most repeated answers were:

* There is less respect for women's rights than before
* Women are thought of as possessions
* The economy has gotten worse

Asked to rank "the biggest threat to national security," the women chose US and British soldiers (43.9 percent) followed closely by the Iraqi militias (32.6 percent). From the report:

A group of women in Karbala was asked what they would do if they were in charge of the country. They said, "We would first ask the Americans to leave immediately. Second, we will address the poverty situation in Iraq which is impacting us the most." One woman added, "If I was the president of the country, I would make filling the stomach of the old people as my utmost priority." When asked what was neeeded, 70.0% of respondents said that rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, wells, drains and public buildings was necessary for the welfare of their communities. Other priorities included programs designed to help communities take care of their own needs and emergency relief such as food, shelter and emergency medical services.

The report concludes with "Action Agenda for Women" which argues for proving "that freedom is not inconsistent with safety"; restoring infrastructure throughout the country, addressing the economic needs of women, supporting "women's organizations and umbrella groups" and strengthening "democracy through education." Again the thirty-four page report is in PDF format and entitled "
Stronger Women, Stronger Nations: 2008 Iraq Report." In non-PDF form, an overview is provided here. The founder of Women for Women, Zainab Salbi, remembers (at Womens Media Center) her own last visit to Iraq (in 2004), "My colleague who picked me up turned to me in the car and said: 'Zainab, remember the basketball hoop your family put in the cul-de-sac in front your home? Al-Mahdi militia has been using the basketball pole to execute Sunnis.' I couldn't believe what he was telling me. 'Zainab,' he continued, 'every day I saw tens of bodies lying in front of your house after being executed. Every day there was a body hanging from the basketball pole. Your home has turned into an execution center'." She remembers traveling Iraq that year and encountering many women including Shatha who told her, "If I was the president of the country, the first thing I would do is ask the Americans to leave. I then would make filling the stomachs of the people my utmost priority, by ending poverty and creating jobs. And thirdly I will focus on education. We can't have a real democracy if we don't have educated people pushing for a real democracy." Zainab Salbi asks that everyone "remember the women who struggle in Iraq and around the world to create peace." AFP notes the report and speaks with two Iraqi women: Asma Kadhim and Eman Ahmad. The latter states, "Before the war in 2003, I used to work in complete freedom. I had my shop and my own car. I was threatened a year back and since then I have stopped working and stopped driving." She had operated a clothing store while Asma Kadhim had operated a hair salon but one day, "There was a stranger at the door. He gave me an envelope which had two bullets and a letter that said 'if you do not close your beauty parlour, we will kill you. Your work is haram (forbidden)'."

January 29th,
Deborah Amos (NPR's Day to Day) reported how 'democracy' played out for Iraqi women:

Deborah Amos: Rima, a 48-year-old mother of four, escaped to Syria a year ago. She doesn't want her family name broadcast because of relatives back home. In the kitchen, Rima seems a traditional Iraqi mother preparing food for her son and three daughters but when it came to education, her daughters have advanced college degrees just like her son. In Baghdad, Rima worked for a western aid organization helping improve the lives of poor Iraqi women until militants threatened to kill her.

Rima: So many times I went to places that poor women are living. They knew me. They knew my face.

Deborah Amos: Rima acknowledges that from a distance Baghdad seems safer now but she says she needs guarantees that go beyond safety to take her daughters back there.

Rima: There is no freedom. Can any girl, woman, dressing as she likes, going to jobs, going to colleges as before?

Deborah Amos: There are women in college, there are some.

Rima: But all of them are frightened.

Deborah Amos: Historically Iraqi women had more rights and freedom than many in the Middle East. That status declined in the last years of Saddam's rule, deteriorated further still after the US invastion. Religious conservatives swept to office in Iraq's elections, the new constitution reduced women's rights and religious radicals directly threatened women -- a story told be refugees across the Middle East. In Lebanon, 53-year-old Bosaf and her brother Feraz, live in a low rent neighborhood outside the capital. They fled Iraq's northern city of Mosul in June. Bosaf -- the head librarian at Mosul University -- was threatened she says because of her head scarf. Her university i.d. shows her blond hair covered by a flowered scarf -- a hijab. But that wasn't good enough for Islamist militants in Mosul. Basama -- a dignified, middle-aged woman -- displays a wicked sense of humor when it comes to the young men who dictated her head gear. She drapes a long, black garmet over her head, rolls her eyes in a can-you-believe-they-made-me-wear-this expression and twirls across the living room.

Unidentified woman: They killed many Christians, that's why she had to wear it.

Deborah Amos: But even a proper headscarf was no protection in Basra. Just ask 35-year-old Ala, the name she agrees to use for her family's safety. She worked as a translator for a western aid organization delivering food and school supplies -- a job she knew came with risks. But Ala says the bigger danger is the well armed and powerful in Basra imposing an extreme form of Islam.

Ala: What's happened, the whole change, attract every wrong value -- this is the religion: "God say that!"

Deborah Amos: Do you think it's more dangerous because you're a woman or because you were a translator?

Ala: Woman. Woman, yeah.

Deborah Amos: Ala now expresses her opinions in the relative saftey of exile. She fled to neighboring Jordan last year. But as a refugee there are other dangers for women. Many have been trapped into prostitution, she says.

Ala: Let me show you something.

Deborah Amos: Ala takes a folded piece of paper from her wallet. She says a Jordanian man -- old enough to be her father -- handed it to her when she first arrived.

Ala: Okay. And then he said, just in case my dear daughter -- you need anything, anybody bother you in this country call me any time. And you'll never believe what he gave me. Oh my God.

Deborah Amos: She smooths out the paper, points to a phone number and one Arabic word underlined. A code she understood.

Ala: Marriage. (Ala laughs.)

Deborah Amos: So he was actually proposing marriage to you?

Ala: If that was his proposal. This is what they're using women here unfortunately. Marriage is the gate or the knock for the door.

Deborah Amos: This is how the prostituion happens? You get a note like this?

Ala: How many women actually show the note to the police?

Deborah Amos: Ala has finally left Jordan accepted for resettlement in the United States. Basama in Lebanon and Rima in Syria hope for resettlement too because they believe they have no future in Iraq.

And it's not just Iraqi women who are targeted in Iraq.
Jamie Leigh Jones went to Iraq to work for Halliburton's KBR and was drugged, gang-raped and imprisoned . . . by her co-workers. As the Associated Press notes, she currently engaged in a battle to have her case heard in a court while KBR claims an employment contract should cover 'grievances.'

aaron glantz

mcclatchy newspapers