Shaped By War: An Iraqi Journalist in Dubai

Imagine yourself at work one day when the boss comes to you, hands you a shovel, a gun, and says “the invasion is starting, you must defend your workplace.” It may sound implausible but that is exactly  what happened to my guest on the program today.

Ali Al Shouk was your average working chemist when the invasion of Iraq began in 2003.  It was then that a series of traumatic events and coincidences would begin, eventually leading him to a career in journalism and a place he did not expect to end up.

In between my taxi interviews Ali and I sat down together in Dubai to talk about his amazing experiences that made him who he is today.

The Crime Known as War

My good friends and colleagues at wikileaks have released a long anticipated and truly horrifying video obtained unofficially from the US military.  Unofficially is putting it kindly, the US military never wanted you to see this video where civilians are targeted and killed over and over.  I could say more but I’d rather let the video and wikileaks do the talking, so please watch for yourself.

Terrorizing Gay Iraqi’s

My good friend John of Americablog has been in Paris for the last few weeks and sent me a message today. The message contained excerpts from this article in the Guardian which tells about religious extremists in Iraq who troll gay websites and chat rooms seeking to identify gay Iraqi’s, track them down, and then torture or murder them.  They do this in the name of religion, citing the usual claims related to god and religious rules as justification for butchering men and women in ways that words cannot describe.

In his message John asked me if, among my many friends in the hacker community across the world, I might know some who could help expose these murderers who use computer skills to find their prey.  Although I do know many skilled individuals, I didn’t have a good answer for him. Is it possible that in a world where such a barberic group of killers exist, there might also be a group dedicated to human rights and the belief that none of us should ever be hunted for who we are, who could combat their activities?  Part of me thinks it is too TV, too Hollywood, that in the real world of post-Saddam Iraq, it is not possible to stop such horror.

Yet outside of the idea of stopping a group seeking to identify gay Iraqi’s, couldn’t those of us concerned with this issue help in other ways? The most basic – making sure there is information, readily available and being passed around any place where gay Iraqi’s could find it, on how to keep their identities safe.  On how to be vigilant for someone who is pretending to be something they are not. Although it might seem like common sense to some of us, it still seems to me one step we can take towards stopping fundamentalist monsters from committing atrocities.

Archeology and Iraq

Esteemed podcasting colleague who’s radio program was greatly scaled down last year, to a simple interview-based podcast, Christopher Lydon, recorded another brilliant conversation last week.

His guest was born in Mosul, Iraq, a former bodybuilder and respected archeologist, Behnam Abu Al-Souf is a an amazing source of wisdom and truth.  He speaks about Iraq over the past decades, especially when he was a young man growing up in Iraq. There is also plenty of dialogue about the archeological treasures and incomperable history of the region.

My words could not possibly do this man, or Chris’s interview, justice.  Therefore I recommend you give it a listen, it is like taking an insightful journey through time, space, and something more.

Iraqi Labor

The media conversation about the goings-on in Iraq doesn’t get much beyond the religious divisions and political executions. When it does, it certainly doesn’t make the front pages.

Over the weekend my Radio Labor Start Podcast feed included a recent episode of building bridges, the labor radio program from WBAI in NYC and an old favorite of mine. I expected the usual discussion of labor organizing in the US. But this episode featured a labor leader from Iraq.

Complete with translator, the IRaqi talked about the struggle of organized labor since the early 20th century in Iraq. Beyond that, he spoke about how the current government is passing laws that allow labor organizers to be arrested, tortured, and killed. While workers for sectors like oil and power, struggle to organize themselves and demand a living wage.

While we’ve long read about how terrible this current Iraqi government is, I hadn’t heard about it’s despicable labor policies. It is as if part of bringing “freedom” to Iraq involves making sure the labor movement is destroyed.

Highly recommended listening.

Congressional Pork Crimes

All the critics are up-in-arms at the shocking development last week, that congress voted to give the GWBush his war money. Obviously they’re outraged because the party they were convinced would represent their opposition to the war, did not do what they were elected to do.

Yet the disappointment doesn’t end there. Because this was all part of “making a deal”. According to this deal, if congress votes to give billions to kill more Iraqi’s, in exchange, they will get their minimum wage increase (though I don’t know many adults who can actually live on 7.25 an hour). They also secure alot of money to finally fund the Road Home Program which was supposed to help post Katrina recovery until the program ran out of money. Oh and there’s even a little help for small businesses in the form of tax breaks. All lovely and necessary things I suppose, and I’m sure many good intentioned people will point to that and say; well at least we got that!

But my rhetorical question is: what does one have to do with the other? And what kind of sick government attaches essential money for sufferring citizens in places like New Orleans, to the money needed to fund the occupation and subjugation of another country? Those two projects have nothing to do with each other, and their funding should not be used as some kind of leverage or bargaining chip.

Reading through the texts of these bills, all included in this shameful “deal”, I again return to the conclusion that the US government and the political system in general are broken in the most fundamental way and these two parties are responsible.