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Thursday, June 30, 2005

W vs Saddam

Oh My God, did I get hate mail about the piece I did comparing Goering to Saddam. The obscene and anonymous replies missed the intent of the story: to draw a contrast to the way both of these men behaved in captivity. What I got was a trail of ‘George Bush is as much of a criminal as Goering and Saddam.' Oh Really? Here is a list of Saddam Hits for the last twenty years:
-- According to a 2001 Amnesty International report, "victims of torture in Iraq are subjected to a wide range of forms of torture, including the gouging out of eyes, severe beatings and electric shocks... some victims have died as a result and many have been left with permanent physical and psychological damage."
-- Saddam has had approximately 40 of his own relatives murdered.
-- Allegations of prostitution used to intimidate opponents of the regime, have been used by the regime to justify the barbaric beheading of women.
-- Documented chemical attacks by the regime, from 1983 to 1988, resulted in some 30,000 Iraqi and Iranian deaths.
-- Human Rights Watch estimates that Saddam's 1987-1988 campaign of terror against the Kurds killed at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 Kurds.
-- The Iraqi regime used chemical agents to include mustard gas and nerve agents in attacks against at least 40 Kurdish villages between 1987-1988. The largest was the attack on Halabja which resulted in approximately 5,000 deaths.
-- 2,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed during the campaign of terror.
-- Iraq's 13 million Shi'a Muslims, the majority of Iraq's population of approximately 22 million, face severe restrictions on their religious practice, including a ban on communal Friday prayer, and restriction on funeral processions.
-- According to Human Rights Watch, "senior Arab diplomats told the London-based Arabic daily newspaper al-Hayat in October [1991] that Iraqi leaders were privately acknowledging that 250,000 people were killed during the uprisings, with most of the casualties in the south."
-- Refugees International reports that the "Oppressive government policies have led to the internal displacement of 900,000 Iraqis, primarily Kurds who have fled to the north to escape Saddam Hussein's Arabization campaigns (which involve forcing Kurds to renounce their Kurdish identity or lose their property) and Marsh Arabs, who fled the government's campaign to dry up the southern marshes for agricultural use. More than 200,000 Iraqis continue to live as refugees in Iran."
-- The U.S. Committee for Refugees, in 2002, estimated that nearly 100,000 Kurds, Assyrians and Turkomans had previously been expelled, by the regime, from the "central-government-controlled Kirkuk and surrounding districts in the oil-rich region bordering the Kurdish controlled north."
-- "Over the past five years, 400,000 Iraqi children under the age of five died of malnutrition and disease, preventively, but died because of the nature of the regime under which they are living." (Prime Minister Tony Blair, March 27, 2003)
-- Under the oil-for-food program, the international community sought to make available to the Iraqi people adequate supplies of food and medicine, but the regime blocked sufficient access for international workers to ensure proper distribution of these supplies.
-- Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition forces have discovered military warehouses filled with food supplies meant for the Iraqi people that had been diverted by Iraqi military forces.
-- The Iraqi regime has repeatedly refused visits by human rights monitors. From 1992 until 2002, Saddam prevented the UN Special Rapporteur from visiting Iraq.
-- The UN Special Rapporteur's September 2001, report criticized the regime for "the sheer number of executions," the number of "extrajudicial executions on political grounds," and "the absence of a due process of the law."
Executions: Saddam Hussein's regime has carried out frequent summary executions, including:
-- 4,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in 1984;-- 3,000 prisoners at the Mahjar prison from 1993-1998;
-- 2,500 prisoners were executed between 1997-1999 in a "prison cleansing campaign";
-- 22 political prisoners were executed at Abu Ghraib prison in February/March 2000;
-- 23 political prisoners were executed at Abu Ghraib prison in October 2001;
-- At least 130 Iraqi women were beheaded between June 2000 and April 2001;

Nothing else needs to be said.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Shelby Foote - RIP

Being born and raised in the South and moving from Louisiana to North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia and Kentucky (border state) and finally settling in Florida I have had the honor of never living above the Mason Dixon for any period greater than three weeks in my life. Thank God! Which means, all my Mom-N-Nem is from the South going all way back to farm country in Mississippi before the War of Northern Aggression.

My Grandfather’s vision of the South was not that different from John C Calhoun’s – death by stoning and the extension of slavery to anyone who did not own land – white or black! He didn’t care what color your skin was, you had to have a job, be it digging ditches or being a judge. Work hard, love your God, stay sober and be a man!

This is what the writings of Shelby Foote, to me, were all about – being a man! Being resolute in your opinions, having courage to face the fire of your conviction against all detractors, bowing before the almighty Father for his divine intercession are the threads that Shelby Foote wove into every story. What Shelby Foote leaves for generations to come is what I took away from reading his three novel account of the Civil War – the struggle of ideas may be cause enough to take up arms, but glory is fleeting no matter what side prevails.

Shelby Foote also represented for me the spirit of the South that seems to ever more be replaced with cultural relativism. There is a great quote that can be attributed to Shelby Foote: "I never enjoyed the company of tourists," “I do not go where they go, and I do not want them coming where I am." Since I live in Florida, no truer words have been spoken. It’s hard for me to think of the part of Florida where I live like the small towns in KY, NC and LA that seem to shun and shield themselves from the locust-tourists that visit my state season after season. There are parts of FL that do have the feeling that Shelby Foote describes as the ‘sameness of smallness’ that his TN and MS represent. Unfortunately, I live far from towns like that in FL. But having had the honor of growing up in the South, I can carry those feelings and experiences with me no matter where I live.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Goering vs Saddam

I remember reading accounts of the way the US Army handled Herman Goering after he was captured at the end of WWII, especially Gilbert’s Nuremberg Diary. There was a press conference that he had where, bedecked in his Luftwaffe uniform, save the gold baton, answered questions reporters had about his involvement in the rise and fall of the Third Reich. However, toward the end of the interview, the beguiling and humorous Goering turned more solemn and obstinate when questions about his involvement in Hitler’s Final Solution surfaced. Ultimately, Goering cheated the death he deserved by chewing on a cyanide tablet. But in the months leading up to his untimely demise, Goering, in the hands of his captors, reminds me of how Saddam Hussein is performing with his American and Allied jailers in Iraq.

The similarities of Goering and Saddam are interesting:

· Both sanctioned mass murder
· Both provided material, financial, and political means for mass murder
· Both have denied complicity or responsibility for their involvement in mass murder
· Both have psychological profiles of crippling dementia, megalomania, recalcitrance, delusions of grandeur, and profound self-deception
· Both demanded to be recognized as legitimate even after capture and incarceration (Saddam has not been put on trial yet – ultimately will be found guilty of all the same crimes as Goering and that lot – Humanity, Peace, etc., unless the case is tried by the Michael Jackson jury!)

The most salient difference in these two men is that the Saddam was Iraq’s #1 - the Dinars literally stopped with him, while and Goering on the other hand, imagined he was.

Still, the press is much different today then in 1945. There has not been a despot in recent memory that was called a despot by the press. (Chrissy Amanpour had trouble calling Ceauceascu a bully). So, in the case of Saddam, his journey from absolute ruler to absolutely screwed will play out in a world that is more concerned about his toe nail clippings as opposed to the people he tortured, raped, gassed, maimed, beheaded, blinded, castrated, eviscerated, and socially re-engineered.

Herman Goering said that in 50 years after his death little statues of him would be put up all over Germany in celebration of his legacy. Let’s hope that in a post-Saddam world, 50 years from now the only bombings taking place in Iraq will be that of pigeons aiming for the head of all the George Bush statues in front of ex-Saddam palaces.


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