September 28, 2006

More News on Attempts to Kill Habeas Corpus

Here are some more articles and commentary on the military commissions bill being debated in the Senate right now. If you haven't called your Senator today to ask them to defend the writ of habeas corpus, please do so ASAP because the vote will likely take place today. See my earlier post for more details.

Molly Ivins: Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215 - 2006)

Boston Globe: Legal Residents' Rights Curbed in Detainee Bill

LA Times: Don't Suspend Habeas Corpus

WP: Rights Groups Decry US Senate Bill on Detainees

MSNBC: Specter to Press for Detainees' Habeas Corpus Rights

Znet: Indefinite Detention and Torture: A Political and Moral Mistake

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September 27, 2006

Save the Writ of Habeas Corpus!

Recent news about the compromise on the military commissions bill that was debated in Congress has focused on article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and relevant US military stipulations regarding torture of detainees. A very critical section of the bill that has not been discussed by the media is the abolishment of the writ of habeas corpus for anyone in the US who is not an American citizen. The passage of this section of the bill would be a disaster for civil and human rights advocates across the US. Abolishing the writ of habeas corpus is slap in the face of the founding fathers of this country. While the bill has passed in the House, it is still up for debate in the Senate, and we still have a chance to try to stop it from passing!

What is the writ of habeas corpus?
A writ of habeas corpus is a court order addressed to a prison official (or other custodian) ordering that a detainee be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he or she should be released from custody. The writ of habeas corpus in common law countries is an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action.
This is what the Supreme Court has said about the write of habeas corpus:
the Supreme Court has "recognized the fact that`the writ of habeas corpus is the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.' Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 290-91 (1969). " Therefore, the writ must be "administered with the initiative and flexibility essential to insure that miscarriages of justice within its reach are surfaced and corrected." Harris, 394 U.S. at 291.
This is what Congress wants to do with the writ; from the Center for Constitutional Rights:
Congress is on the verge of passing a military commissions bill that would authorize the indefinite detention, without access to the courts, of immigrants detained inside or outside of the United States—even if they are not charged with any crime. What began as legislation to regulate the trials of men at Guantánamo has grown so sweeping that it would encompass any non-U.S. citizen picked up anywhere in the world, even permanent legal residents detained inside the United States. This is being voted on in the House of Representatives today and will likely be voted on in the Senate on Thursday. Senators Specter and Levin will be introducing a bipartisan amendment to remove a provision that denies these immigrants access to courts. It is essential that you call your Senators and Representatives and urge them to vote for the Specter Amendment to remove the jurisdiction-stripping provision from the military commissions bill. (more)
Please act now to ensure that out Constitution continues to protect all who reside in this country. Call your members of Congress immediately, especially those listed with contact information below.
Kent Conrad (ND) (202) 224-2043
Joe Lieberman (CT) (202) 224-4041
Ben Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
James Jeffords (VT) (202) 224-5141
Lincoln Chafee (RI) (202) 224-2921
Richard Lugar (IN) (202) 224-4814
Craig Thomas (WY) (202) 224-6441
Chuck Hagel (NE) (202) 224-4224
Lisa Murkowski (AK) (202) 224-6665
John Sununu (NH) (202) 224-2841
Peter Dominici (NM) (202) 224-6621
Gordon Smith (OR) (202) 224-3753
Arlen Specter (PA) (202) 224-4254
Daniel Inouye (HI) (202) 224-3934
Mary Landrieu (LA) (202) 224-5824
Ron Wyden (OR) (202) 224-5244
Olympia Snowe (ME) (202) 224-5344
Susan Collins (ME) (202) 224-2523
Carl Levin (MI) (202) 224-6221
Hillary Clinton (NY) (202) 224-4451
Richard Durbin (IL) (202) 224-2152
Harry Reid (NV) (202) 224-3542
John Kerry (MA) (202) 224-2742
Lindsey Graham (SC) (202) 224-5972
John Warner (VA) (202) 224-2023
John McCain (AZ) (202) 224-2235

We cannot continue to sit back and watch idly as the Bush administration and their cohorts in Congress tear apart our constitutional rights. If we don't defend our own rights, noone else will!

It only takes a few minutes to write an email or make a phone call to your Senators, but it will take years if not decades to bring back our rights if they are taken away.

[Feel free to repost this on your blog or send it as an email to friends and family. Let's get the word out!]

*Update*: There are some reports that the Senate will be voting on this early this morning, so please call early and call a lot!

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September 24, 2006

A Blessed Ramadan

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is a unique pillar in the Islamic faith. It is one that the majority of 1.6 billion Muslims around the world practice despite their varying levels of religiosity. Especially for those living in a Muslim majority country, it is hard to avoid fasting and the magical atmosphere of Ramadan. I experienced Ramadan in Dubai for 2 short years, but I would say it must be unique in every country. I would love to experience Ramadan in a more cultural and Islamic environment, but that doesn't mean that I haven't enjoyed Ramadan most of my life right here in good ol' northern Virginia.

We have a sizable and very diverse Muslim community in the Washington D.C. metro area, with plenty of mosques, community centers, MSA's, and Islamic schools. Because my family has always maintained close ties to our community here, I've never felt that I've been deprived of a sense of "Islamic-ness" during Ramadan and other Islamic holidays. I grew up going to the iftars (fast-breaking dinners) at the local mosque some evenings where it felt like we were all one big family enjoying dinner together. As we grew up, however, we stopped attending these community iftars and frequented the mosque for prayers less and less. Still, our memories as elementary school kids gathered in different parts of the Islamic center waiting impatiently for the prayer call, having iftar together, then rushing to buy candy to indulge our sweet cravings are truly unforgettable.

I remember one Ramadan when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I volunteered to help baby-sit some kids in the mosque while their mothers attended a lecture. We had a bag of lollipops and I passed them out to the kids while they played. I was proud to be fasting as I had started doing so at an early age. I got distracted with the kids, and found myself eating lollipop after lollipop. They were the small ones of which you could easily have 10 and still would want more. After going through about seven of them, my mom came to check on me and found me eating one. She said, "aren't you fasting?" And of course I was shocked, "oh my god! I totally forgot I was fasting! oh my god, how could I forget!" My mom just laughed at me and told me it was OK since I didn't do it on purpose, and that this was probably "a gift from God" since I was fasting so well for the past few years. I just can't seem to understand how I could go through so many lollipops without remembering that I was fasting! It's one of those incidents you never forget.

While in many Muslim countries most people will stop eating in public and restaurants will shut down during the day, that is not the case over here. Everywhere you go there is food and temptation. I remember in college when I used to walk through the main student union and have to face the aroma of french fries, burgers, pizza, and the works while going to meet my friends or study. In class I would cringe upon seeing a Starbucks cup and would just imagine the sweet taste of a tall chai or white mocha in the early morning. Still, nothing really ever came so close as to tempt me to break my fast, except getting sick. It's a disgraceful feeling that you have if you do break your fast for a stupid reason. This is what I feel when I'm sitting in front of the dinner table covered with all kinds of food and waiting for the clock to turn so I can break my fast. Once I drink that sip of water or juice, every feeling of hunger and weakness disappears. And you wonder to yourself how strong your body can be, but how weak your will can be as well, without faith. Because what else would make you not raise your hand to eat a bite or drink a sip during the day even if nobody can see you and nobody will know but you?

Despite all the talk of food, Ramadan is so much more than just abstaining from food and drink. It truly is a test of patience and strength. It's a time when Muslims feel that everything they do should be a form of worship. They like to pray on time, read more Quran, supplicate to the Lord, help the needy, and stay away from negative thoughts and bad language. It is a time when we should come closer to God and remember those who are less fortunate. Remember that we are nothing without the blessings of our Lord and that we are created to appreciate them and not abuse or misuse those blessings.

Just like other religious holidays that have been hijacked by businesses, this is the case in most Muslim countries where many people want to make a buck off of their Muslim brethren during this holy month. It's sad to see that Ramadan is being taken advantage of, and I'm glad that being in America keeps me away from that. I'm glad we don't have "Ramadan tents" over here to entertain us all night with coffee, sheesha, and belly dancers. How this concept could even be related to Ramadan still manages to shock me every time I see it on Arabic satellite channels. Instead of people praying for peace in Iraq, Palestine, and Darfur, they are smoking and drinking the night away so they can sleep the day away as well.

This Ramadan, I will pray for our communities across the world that are suffering from war, poverty, disease, occupation, oppression, and ignorance. I will pray that our youth are guided away from those who seek to take advantage of them for personal gains that cannot be justified by Islam. I will pray that our global community is not weakened by any attempts to sow disunity among Sunni and Shi'a, and that people of all faiths will continue to respect one another despite their differences. Ameen.

~Wishing you a blessed and peaceful Ramadan~
Ramadan prayers in Jakarta, Indonesia (REUTERS/Supri)

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September 18, 2006

Stirrings on Guantanamo Bay & Extraordinary Renditions

I wanted to share a few articles that I came across recently which should put the recent debates on Guantanamo Bay prisoners and secret prisons into perspective for all of us. Let us not forget that we are speaking of individuals who have not been convicted and most have no evidence against other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Abu Bakker Qassem writes in a New York Times Op-Ed yesterday.
I have been greatly saddened to hear that the Congress of the United States, a country I deeply admire, is considering new laws that would deny prisoners at Guantánamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in federal court.

I learned my respect for American institutions the hard way. When I was growing up as a Uighur in China, there were no independent courts to review the imprisonment and oppression of people who, like me, peacefully opposed the Communists. But I learned my hardest lesson from the United States: I spent four long years behind the razor wire of its prison in Cuba.

I was locked up and mistreated for being in the wrong place at the wrong time during America’s war in Afghanistan. Like hundreds of Guantánamo detainees, I was never a terrorist or a soldier. I was never even on a battlefield. Pakistani bounty hunters sold me and 17 other Uighurs to the United States military like animals for $5,000 a head. The Americans made a terrible mistake.

Also is the news recently is a similar type of secret imprisonment, extraordinary rendition, which I blogged about before regarding the case of Canadian Maher Arar. Extraordinary rendition occurs when "terror suspects are transferred from U.S. control into the control of foreign governments, so that interrogation methods that are not permitted under U.S. law may be applied to the suspects."

Outlawed is a new documentary film that addresses the issue of rendition by telling "the stories of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, two men who have survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture by the U.S. government working with various other governments worldwide." Democracy Now's Amy Goodman highlighted this documentary film on her show last week which is produced by the international human rights organization Witness. [You can read the transcript or download the episode here.] This is an excerpt from the interview:
BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “I refused to talk in Karachi until they gave me a lawyer. I said it was my right to have a lawyer. The FBI said, ‘The law has changed, there are no lawyers. You can cooperate with us the easy way or the hard way.’ On the first day of the interrogation ‘Chuck’ said, ‘If you don’t talk to me you are going to Jordan. We can’t do what we want here. The Arabs will deal with you.’”

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The United States has not transported anyone and will not transport anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.

BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “They would say, ‘There is this guy who would say you are a big man in Al Qaeda.’ I would say, ‘It is a lie.’ They would torture me. I would say, ‘OK it is true,’ they would say, ‘OK tell us more.’ I would say, ‘I don’t know more,’ they would torture me again. The guards would say, ‘America’s really pissed off at what happened, and they have said to the world, “either you are with us or against us.” We Moroccans say, “We are with you,” so we will do whatever they want.’”
You can watch the full length film which is available on Google Video. I recommend that everyone watch this brief film to get a realistic perspective on the issue. Imagine being abducted while on vacation, taken half way across the world, tortured, and forced to confess to a crime that you have nothing do with. Your family has no idea where you are. They move out of your home and back to their country. The full story with all of the gruesome details are in the film.

Fortunately, some of our senators have come to realize the dangers and risks involved in this type of criminal and inhumane activity and have recently protested the passage of legislation endorsed by President Bush with regards to the rights of detainees. Many Americans are speaking out in support of these senators as they still have a conscience and still believe in the rule of law [see these letters to the editor].

Most of these congressmen will be up for re-election in a few weeks, and this issue should be a top priority for every American that cares about the freedoms which this country was founded upon and cares about the reputation of the US in the international community. We cannot continue to promote democracy and freedom in parts of the world while secretly jailing innocent and not-yet-proven-guilty suspects and allowing the governments of third world countries to torture them indefinitely on our behalf.

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September 16, 2006

Sticks and Stones...On the Pontiff's Words

As if we don't have enough frustration and anger in the Muslim world for the wars, occupation, poverty, unemployment, humiliation, lack of freedoms, and so called terrorism that plague us, the highest authority of the Catholic faith decides that there is a pressing need to reiterate the ignorant and insulting message the Danish cartoons portrayed only a few months ago. And as if we don't have enough people saying we're crazy angry terrorists, a few Muslim lunatics had to go prove the Pope's statements by throwing fire bombs at churches in the West Bank town of Nablus. Do people not think anymore?! Is it really that hard to think twice before saying or doing something that might cause harm to many people around you and many people who listen to you?

The 'cartoon controversy' is still fresh in the memory of most people around the world, especially Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad was defamed in the satirical Danish cartoons with complete disregard for the feelings of 1.6 billion Muslims around the world who consider such drawings offensive at least and blasphemous at best. Millions of Muslims around the world peacefully protested the cartoons and some of course violently protested. It took much effort on the part of the Danish to retract and apologize for the actions of a few of their countrymen, and it took a lot more effort from the Muslim world to begin a dialogue about the important role the Prophet plays in the Islamic faith with the West. Discussions, conferences, and countless dialogues were held in order to bring both sides together to recognize the sanctity of different aspects of religion for followers of different faiths. This is the only positive result of the Danish cartoon controversy.

But just as people are beginning to calm down and realize that discussion and exchange of ideas is the only way to educate ourselves and each other about our beliefs, ideals, and customs, the Pope decides to spark yet another controversy by insulting the most revered figure in the Islamic faith, the Prophet Muhammad.

Muslims around the world have demanded an apology from the pontiff, and rightly so, for his insulting and inflammatory statements. Today, the Pope issued a statement, which most media outlets are still debating as to whether it constitutes an apology or not. The BBC says the Pope has apologized, while CNN says his statement comes short of an apology. [The full text of the statement is here.]

Thank you, Pope Benedict XVI, for "regretting" that your statement "could have sounded offensive" to Muslims around the world. Unfortunately, the damage has been done, yet again. And while most Muslims want an official and personal apology, that is not likely to change the reality of what happened. We all make mistakes, that is true. But we also know that a Pope is given such an important responsibility that he could not mistakenly make such a statement in a well-prepared for speech before a large audience.

And to those individuals who claim to represent me and my religion by attacking sacred churches and burning effigies and flags, please remember that the Prophet would not have, in a million years and in the face of thousands of insults, ever acted this way. His neighbor threw trash in front of his house every single day and the non-Muslims in Mecca insulted him verbally and even abused him physically. He turned the other cheek and prayed that God would forgive them and guide them. The Prophet said, "The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself in a moment of anger."

I conclude with a very well written editorial in the New York Times today which analyzes the situation very clearly and effectively:

There is more than enough religious anger in the world. So it is particularly disturbing that Pope Benedict XVI has insulted Muslims, quoting a 14th-century description of Islam as “evil and inhuman.”

In the most provocative part of a speech this week on “faith and reason,” the pontiff recounted a conversation between an “erudite” Byzantine Christian emperor and a “learned” Muslim Persian circa 1391. The pope quoted the emperor saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Muslim leaders the world over have demanded apologies and threatened to recall their ambassadors from the Vatican, warning that the pope’s words dangerously reinforce a false and biased view of Islam. For many Muslims, holy war — jihad — is a spiritual struggle, and not a call to violence. And they denounce its perversion by extremists, who use jihad to justify murder and terrorism.

The Vatican issued a statement saying that Benedict meant no offense and in fact desired dialogue. But this is not the first time the pope has fomented discord between Christians and Muslims.

In 2004 when he was still the Vatican’s top theologian, he spoke out against Turkey’s joining the European Union, because Turkey, as a Muslim country was “in permanent contrast to Europe.”

A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue.

The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal.

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September 14, 2006


So our friend Iman decided to get inspired a week ago and inspire us all with her, so here it goes :o)

Name: me? moi? ana? :P
Childhood ambition: i don't remember having one in particular, but many which include being a journalist, a teacher, or a highly influential person that could make a difference in the world. [this question stumped me!]
First job: information services at my university
First ‘real’ job: what's a real job?
Fondest memory: childhood innocence
Retreat: sitting by the Potomac River
Wildest dream: winning the Nobel Prize for Peace
Proudest moment: when someone tells me I've changed the way they view the Palestinian issue or the way they view Muslims
Perfect day: when I can accomplish everything on my to-do-list and still have an extra hour to do whatever I want
Indulgence: shoes, handbags, chocolate (and jewelery)
Soundtrack: the best of savage garden
Last purchase: $10 on my Metro card
Alarm clock: my annoying cell phone alarm, but I usually wake up a few minutes before it rings
People: i've got them all figured out
Favorite book: not one in particular, most of them are in my profile
Most used expression: bala baradeh! (stop being silly )
Inspiration: failure and success
News source: Aljazeera on tv, BBC/AP/Reuters for quick online news, newspapers for analysis
Religion: indeed a way of life
Biggest challenge: maintaining hope in humanity
Education: is everything, cannot be compromised
Pain: no pain no gain
Happiness: stability

I didn't expect this to take me so long but I really had to think about some of them! Thanks Iman, as if I have enough brain cells to burn ;)

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September 12, 2006

Syria Foils Terrorist Attack on US Embassy

The time of this incident appears to be coinciding with the 5th anniversay of 9/11. Whether it is the work of Al-Qaeda is still not clear, but in my view highly unlikely because it does not appear to have been conducted with the same scale and precision that Al-Qaeda attacks are characterisitic of.

Three armed men have been killed and one wounded after they attacked the US embassy in Damascus in what Syria has called a terrorist operation.

The men approached the embassy compound on Tuesday morning and then attempted to blow up a car outside, according to Syrian television. [link]

The AP reports that Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha made comments to CNN indicating that an Al-Qaeda offshoot group named Jund al-Sham has been responsible for previous attacks in Syria although no one has yet claimed they are directly responsible for this attack.

Secretary of State Rice thanked Syria, a country the State Dept considers a sponsor of terrorism and a part of the "Axis of Evil", for protecting the US embassy and its staff.

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September 11, 2006

On Nine-Eleven

I just finished watching the "docudrama" on ABC, The Path to 9/11. I don't intend to review this movie today, but watching it along with the rest of the media attention focused on the events of September 2001 forces each one of us to reflect on that day and the five years since then. For me, the attacks came at a critical point in my life, my senior year in high school, and its aftermath would shape my college life and career as no other events could.

Like most people, I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard about what happened. I remember how I felt and how the people around me felt. I cannot forget those moments of shock, confusion, and fear that came over me on that day. I remember the school I attended, a private Arabic/Islamic school, had to be evacuated immediately. We stayed home for a week fearing some crazy lunatic would blow up the school after receiving many threats. I remember seeing the first images of the towers online, then getting in my car and listening to reports already speculating about bin Laden's responsibility. Of course, from the beginning I had prayed the terrorists would not be Arabs or Muslims, but hearing bin Laden's name put everything in perspective. I remember coming home and watching the towers fall over and over again, and crying my eyes out for hours.

For my parents and grandparents and others from their generations, 9/11 does not have the same impact as it did on my generation. They have witnessed Arab-Israeli wars, the Cold War, and other major events that had a great impact on history. For a 17 year old at the time, nine-eleven is a defining moment in their lives. For a 17 year old Arab and Muslim girl living in the suburbs of Washington D.C., nine-eleven is a much more defining moment. It is a time when we might question our identity, our allegiances, and our people.

This is the age when American teens head off to college to begin a life on their own, independent of their families. They are given the freedom to explore and discover what is out there, the good, the bad and the ugly. I grew up knowing a lot about what went on around me and asking even more questions. I knew of the Intifadas, of the Berlin Wall, of Bosnia, of Iraqi sanctions. I wasn't a sheltered teenager by any means as my parents encouraged my interest in world affairs. I wanted to be a journalist to write about all the political happenings in the world.

It was not only the 9/11 attacks that began to shape my worldview as I entered the doors of university, but more so the events that followed. The aftermath and the consequences of the terrorist attacks are imprinted in my memory just like the events of 9/11/01. I cannot forget the day Kabul fell, the day Bush announced the invasion of Iraq, and the day Baghdad fell. I remember the fear my community lived in in the months after the attacks. Everything is political here when you are this close to D.C. This is not small town America.

In the months to come, friends would be profiled, others would be arrested without charge, searched without warrants, and some convicted without evidence. Justice is a word that would no longer have much weight in my dictionary. The PATRIOT Act would make it an illusive hope.

As I watched the movie, I wondered how long I would have to feel this hopelessness. As much as I would like to think I'm an optimistic person, the reality of today continues to slap me in the face. I had hope in the anti-war protests before the Iraqi invasion. The millions of people around the country and around the world who stood up and said no inspired me. The Muslims around the world who lit candles and prayed for the 9/11 victims reassured me that this was not the end. There is still some good out there. But today, you'd be hard pressed Muslims who would only remember 9/11 without remembering the rape of Iraq. Still fresh in their memory is the burning and the destruction in Lebanon. The starving children of Gaza.

Will anything I say or do even make a difference? Where do these people come from anyway like Zawahiri and Atta? They address me as a Muslim and tell me to take revenge on America. I want to take revenge on them for making 9/11 a defining moment in my life instead of a more positive event that I could always remember. I feel sorry for the young ones out there that might listen to them and act upon what they hear. I also feel sorry for the young American soldiers in Iraq who are acting upon what they hear from Bush and Rumsfeld. I fear that they will throw away their lives for what they think is a good cause, just like the young Muslims out there who might think that flying themselves into buildings is for a good cause. They are no longer able to think for themselves, to reflect on their actions, and the consequences of those actions. They alone will be held accountable, but they simply do not understand how their actions will impact the lives of millions of people around the world.

Again, will anything I say or do even make a difference? I am student of international politics, conflict resolution, and Middle East studies. Will any of this help if another war is about to be unleashed? If another terrorist attack is about to take place?

I can only pray that my limited yet hopefully uncorrupted knowledge and practice of Islam will make a difference somehow. I'm not going to be just another American or just another young Arab easily recruited by politicians and terrorists alike. I am my own person, I was granted a brain to reflect with and a body to use to make a difference in this world.

I will do just that, with all the power I have and the rest is up to Him.
We all should.

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September 8, 2006

My First Blogoversary!

Yep, it's been exactly one year since I started this blog last September. It seems now like I've been blogging forever and sometimes I wonder how things were before I discovered the blogosphere.

It's been a great experience blogging, reading other blogs, befriending bloggers, and being a part of this unique community. It's a cliche, but I really have learned a lot over the past year about many issues going on around the world and how these same issues and events are interpreted and analyzed in so many ways.

I definitely wouldn't have thought that blogging would bring me closer to my Jordanian heritage. But upon discovering an active and vibrant Jordanian blogging community, I instantly became addicted to reading every new post and relating it to what I experience when I visit Jordan every year. I know that when I first applied to get on Jordan Planet the administrators wondered if they should add me when I don't live in Jordan, rarely blogged about Jordan, or even identified myself as Jordanian. They may have seen my early political rants and lots of posts about the situation in Palestine, but nothing distinctly "Jordanian." But I thank them for adding me because I did begin to feel like I could relate to some Jordanians who shared similar interests and concerns about the world. I already wrote about how JP has affected my life and my blogging back in May, so I don't want to repeat everything I said.

And of course I'm grateful to be a part of Palestine Blogs and DC Blogs both of which provide me with an opportunity to learn more and meet more bloggers everyday and always be inspired by them.

As I browsed through my archives last night, I noticed how much my blogging style has changed over the past year. I started off with a lot of random rants about different political events although I feel that has changed into more calculated and thought out analysis of different political and social issues that concern me. While this may not appear to be a very personal blog, and that is how I intended it, politics and activism are a lot of who I am so I don't have to write about my own life for this blog to be personal. Palestine, Iraq, Darfur, and most tragedies of our day that I write about are personal to me because I feel that I am in some ways contributing to the suffering of these people, unless I speak out against it. Even on social issues such as the problems I see in Jordanian and Arab society as well as my own surrounding American community, I enjoy speaking my mind on these issues through this space of mine.

Blogging by yourself is one thing, but getting people to read your posts and interact with you is a completely different experience that adds so much flavor to blogging. It's not really about the number of people that come across my blog, but those that take the time to leave a comment or drop me an email thanking me for a post, or arguing with me on an issue. I know that there are readers out there who do not feel comfortable leaving comments or writing emails, but they are always here listening to me and somehow I can feel that.

So thank you to those bloggers who became my first friends and supported me when I barely got a couple of hits everyday and to everyone else who has since stopped by and found a way to interact with me and learn something new from my blog. I hope my posts continue to grab your attention and make you question and reflect on what is going on out there. Soon I will begin working on improving the visual appearance of my blog and adding more features which I think you will enjoy. I'm open to suggestions so please let me know if you have anything in mind!

Thanks again for reading and Happy Blogoversary to me :o)

On this occassion, I thought I would list some of my favorite posts. Enjoy!

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September 5, 2006

Israel Not Expanding Settlements, Just "Thickening" Them

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert announced plans to expand one of the largest illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank. The 690 new houses will be built in Maale Adumim and Betar Illit.
The Construction and Housing Ministry published advertisements on Monday seeking construction proposals for the largest settlement activity undertaken by this government. Israel has also promised President Bush that it will pull down more than 20 illegal outposts created since March 2001, but has not done so.
Apparently, there was a tiny bit of criticism from the US side.
Stewart Tuttle, the spokesman for the American Embassy in Israel, said Monday that “in general it’s a principle of the road map — a foundation to reach peace in the region — that Israel not only remove illegal outposts, but also not expand settlements in the West Bank.”

But such criticism has had little effect on Israeli policy in the past, and is not expected to matter in this case. In general, Israel says it is not “expanding” settlements, but “thickening” them within existing built-up areas.

A former United States ambassador here, Daniel C. Kurtzer, tried to get Israel to agree with the United States on mapping the existing built-up areas of settlements in order to make it clear when settlements were being expanded. But Israel — which has detailed satellite maps of nearly every building in the West Bank — regularly refused.
This map from the BBC details the geographic area that comprises the illegal settlements in and around the West Bank:

Meanwhile, American politicians will be falling over each other trying to improve their pro-Israel image after some received low scores in a Haaretz study of potential US presidential candidates. The first part of the project, entitled "The Israel Factor", ranks American politicians likely to run for the highest office on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the "worst for Israel" and 10 being "the best for Israel." Of course, nobody has a perfect score, presumably to encourage such politicians to make more of an effort to support anything in favor of Israel. But we do have some high scorers, and they are:
1. Rudy Giuliani (8.75)- "The former New York mayor returned a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince after 9/11 following his comments on Israel."
3. John McCain (7.63)- "The Arizona Senator believes America must give Israel whatever equipment and technology it needs for defense."
3. Hillary Clinton(7.63)- "The Senator for New York and former First Lady supports moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."
It seems like just when you think there couldn't possibly be another president who is more friendly to Israel, another candidate comes along just to prove you wrong. You can find the full list with more details here.

More on settlements:

What is a settlement and why is it illegal?

The establishment of settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law, which establishes the principles applying during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the occupying power to transfer citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power to undertake permanent changes in the occupied area, unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population.

The establishment of the settlements leads to the violation of the rights of the Palestinians as enshrined in international human rights law. Among other violations, the settlements infringe the right to self-determination, equality, property, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement.
[source: B'Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories]

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September 3, 2006

Away From Bush's Reality, Iraq is Slipping into Civil War

"Nations don't declare civil war, they slip into it." One of my professors said this to our class last year. As I am listening to and reading about the news in Iraq, I cannot help but think about this ominous statement. It is a frightening thing to wonder how much worse the situation in Iraq could get. A full fledged civil war would simply be the straw that broke the camel's back, that is, if it's not already broken. And while all signs point in this direction, the Bush administration continues to maintain that "progress" has been made, that we must "not relent", and we cannot "let the terrorists win." Well, Mr. President, let us distinguish reality from rhetoric.
"If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be absolutely predictable — and absolutely disastrous," Mr. Bush said. "We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies."
Mr. Bush said Saddam sympathizers, armed groups backed by Iran and al Qaeda terrorists from across the world would use Iraq as a base of operation.
"They would have a new sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists at the heart of the Middle East, with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions," the president said. "And we know exactly where those ambitions lead. If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities."
Does it seem too naive to wonder who brought those terrorists into Iraq? Is it stupid to ask who instigated the "fight in the streets of Baghadad" in the first place? Is it wrong to ask, Mr. Bush, why were brought into this mess on the basis of a lie?!

This is what a new Pentagon report says about your "progress" in Iraq:
Iraqi casualties soared by more than 50 percent in recent months, the product of spiraling sectarian clashes and a Sunni-based insurgency that remains “potent and viable,” the Pentagon said in its latest comprehensive assessment of security in Iraq.
Since the establishment of the new Iraqi government on May 20th, the average number of weekly attacks has increased to 800. As a result of these attacks, Iraqi casualties have increased more than 51 percent. According to the report,
Iraqi casualties among civilians and security forces reached nearly 120 a day, up from about 80 a day in the pervious reporting period from mid-February to mid-May. About two years ago they were running about 30 a day.
No, these are not just statistics. These are fathers, sons, mothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles. They are human beings now being tallied like insects by the US War Ministry. But wait, there's more! As the New York Times reports, the targets of the attacks has also changed:
“Although the overall number of attacks increased in all categories, the proportion of those attacks directed against civilians increased substantially,” the Pentagon noted. “Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife, with Sunni and Shia extremists each portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups.”
Iraqis are increasingly pessimistic about the future of their country, despite the report's findings that there "technically" isn't a civil war yet.

The report notes that sectarian violence is gradually expanding north to Kirkuk and Diyala Province. Further, the confidence of Iraqis in the future has diminished, according to public opinion surveys cited in the Pentagon report.

Still, the study says the fighting in Iraq does not meet the “stringent international legal standards for civil war,” without further explanation. Even so, the sectarian fighting has been bloodier than ever.

Meanwhile in D.C., Washington Post op-ed columnist George Will talks to Republican Senator Warner about the prospects of civil war in Iraq. While the senator insists that "the essential characteristics of civil war are not yet present in Iraq," he also recognizes huge obstacles to preventing the country from slipping into it.
But Warner also knows: The Iraqi government's writ runs barely beyond Baghdad's Green Zone. The security forces are not yet competent to hold areas that U.S. forces clear of insurgents. Holding such areas might require sending more U.S. forces to Iraq, which would further alienate Iraqis. Moqtada al-Sadr, whose support helped make Nouri al-Maliki Iraq's prime minister, has a militia that is becoming Iraq's Hezbollah -- a sovereign force within the state, and one imperfectly controlled by Sadr.
Not too far from Warner, President Bush is on a speech campaign aimed at spewing more propaganda about "fascists", "Nazis", and the perils of giving up on Iraq in advance of the November elections. The president continues to preach to his "base" while most Americans are simply not buying the rhetoric. Three major polls have shown an all-time high in opposition to the war in Iraq.
A new Associated Press/Ipsos poll that surveyed the country [...] showed that 60 percent of Americans believe that the war in Iraq has increased the chances of a terrorist attack in the US. But in another sign of trouble for the Bush administration, the AP/Ipsos poll also shows that more Americans believe the Democrats will do a better job [in protecting the US] than Republicans, 47-40 percent.
The same poll also shows that 43% of Americans are embarssed by the US image overseas. A CNN poll indicates that 61% of Americans are opposed to the war in Iraq. The poll also indicates what the American public thinks of their leader:
Most Americans (54 percent) don't consider him honest, most (54 percent) don't think he shares their values and most (58 percent) say he does not inspire confidence.
While President Bush continues to link the war in Iraq to the War on Terror, most Americans feel that invading Iraq has increased the likelihood of the US being attacked again.
Not everyone agrees the war in Iraq is central to the war on terror, as the Bush administration maintains. Six in 10 polled think there will be more terrorism in this country because the U.S. went to war in Iraq. Some feel strongly that the two wars are separate.
Throughout all this, the president is still able to keep his sense of humor:
On Wednesday, Bush maintained that his series of speeches, which will culminate in an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, are not political.
Yale Shmale, indeed.

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