Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More on Amman

The Guardian has an article on what's going on in Amman these days. It's worth a look.

Here's a bit:


"The public's lack of representation and shortage of economic opportunities
has fed a romanticised notion of jihad," said the [International Crisis Group's]
Robert Malley. "The November attacks are a preview of what's to come unless
the government gets serious about reform."

While King Abdullah appears to understand all this, internal resistance remains
formidable, and may have stiffened since the bombings. And the potential of
supra-national threats to discourage real change was dramatically illustrated
during a weekend trial of al-Qaida suspects in Amman.

"Terrorism is a badge of honour on our chests until Judgment Day," one of the
defendants shouted. "We're pursuing jihad until we uproot you, exterminate your
state, until the rule of the king vanishes ... Allah is our Lord. You have none.
America is your God."

Geez. These guys are freaks.

Bombs over Al-Jazeera, again

Salon.com finally comes around to addressing the allegations that George Bush discussed plans to bomb Al-Jazeera's office in Qatar--which has been taken up in the European and Arab press a whole lot more than it has here in the U.S. The author, Juan Cole, tries to give Al-Jazeera a good shake and favorably compares the station to standard Arab news shows, "where news producers' idea of an exciting segment is a stationary camera on two Arab leaders sitting ceremonially on a Louis XIV sofa while martial music plays for several minutes." He sure got that right.

Cole looks pretty closely at a number of Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's statements leading up to and throughout the war, with many of them making a plan to bomb Al-Jazeera quite within the realm of possibility.

Skeptics have argued that it is inconceivable that even Bush would consider bombing an office containing 400 journalists, located in the friendly Gulf nation of Qatar. But again, it is more than conceivable that Bush decided that it was essential to neutralize an enemy outpost, and left the tactical question of execution to spooks and generals. Certainly there is strong evidence that Bush and his advisors, in particular Rumsfeld, were thinking along these lines.

Ironically, Rumsfeld himself had telegraphed the strategy during an interview in 2001 on ... Al-Jazeera! On Oct. 16, 2001, Rumsfeld talked to the channel's Washington anchor Hafez Mirazi (who once worked for the Voice of America but left in disgust at the level of censorship he faced there). Although most such interviews are archived at the Department of Defense, this one appears to be absent. Mirazi showed it again on Monday, and it contained a segment in which Rumsfeld defended the targeting of radio stations that supported the Taliban. He made it clear right then that he believed in total war, and made no distinction between civilian and military targets. The radio stations, he said, were part of the Taliban war effort.

And then there's the fact that Al-Jazeera's offices in Kabul and Baghdad were also bombed--but without much comment from DC.

Here's another excerpt:


At the height of the first U.S. attack on Fallujah, which was ordered by Bush in a fit of pique over the killing and desecration of four private security guards (three of them Americans, one South African), Rumsfeld exploded at a Pentagon briefing on April 15:

If I could follow up, Monday General Abizaid chastised Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyah for their coverage of Fallujah and saying that hundreds of civilians were being killed. Is there an estimate on how many civilians have been killed in that fighting? And can you definitively say that hundreds of women and children and innocent civilians have not been killed?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I can definitively say that what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.

Do you have a civilian casualty count?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Of course not, we're not in the city. But you know what our forces do; they don't go around killing hundreds of civilians. That's just outrageous nonsense! It's disgraceful what that station is doing.

In fact, local medical authorities put the number of dead at Fallujah, most of them women, children and noncombatants, at around 600.

As the London Times pointed out on Sunday, Bush's conference with Blair, at which he announced his plan to bomb the channel's Doha offices, occurred the very next day.

The article is great--particularly since it gives a more balanced take on Al-Jazeera's method and content. Even though Salon will have you watch a short advert to read it, it's well worth it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Now I'm truly middle aged

Perhaps I have a morbid streak, but after hearing one of Marjorie Williams' essays read by her husband on NPR today, all I could think about was getting ahold of her book, Woman at the Washington Zoo. Williams died earlier this year after fighting liver cancer for more than 3 years, and the book contains a number of essays about her personal struggles the past few years.

I'm not the only one, though. Currently selling like hotcakes is Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, about her husband's passing and daughter's serious illness, which I recently read and loved to death.

Our comings and goings

I've uploaded some new pictures to my Flickr account, so thought I'd share. Well, shoot, I'll just put a few up and run you through the past few days. . .

Here's one of Iss acting out his dream occupation: bulldozer driver.

I've also got a few from Thanksgiving, which included our first stateside argileh-fest later on in the evening. Samer figured we should break them out of our packing cartons in honor of Seattle's new law banning smoking in all restaurants and bars. Now it DEFINITELY doesn't look like he'll be paying $10+ anytime soon to smoke the ol' waterpipe here in town. It sure is a good thing our house is at least 25 feet away from any dining establishments or saloons. . .

We bopped around town a bit, too, this weekend and--wonder of wonders--managed to get out to see "Walk the Line" together on Sunday night. Samer and I have been Johnny Cash fans ever since the days when the only thing to keep Issy from screaming his head off in the car was playing "Ring of Fire" really, really loudly. We also have special memories of the Cash book-on-tape biography we listened to clear through Arizona to Las Vegas as our car played serious overheating mindgames on us.

I was pretty sceptical that anyone could even get close to doing a good job playing Johnny but, boy, Joaquin Phoenix sure wasn't bad. He sang it all himself--and quite well. And geez, after that I can't help but let him off the hook a bit. Plus, I caught Samer tearing up more than once, which always makes for an endearing date.

Gorgeousness

I was driving home from Trader Joe's this morning and caught sight of the mountains on my way back home. Man, sometimes I'm so blown away that we live here.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Christmases in Amman

One thing's for certain this Christmas: we'll definitely be having a respectable Christmas tree. For the past 5 or 6 years, Christmas season in Jordan began for me when I figured out when the Ministry of Agriculture had their $15 Christmas trees ready for people to come and pick up. I should probably use the term "Christmas trees" pretty lightly, because these guys were the most scrawny, pathethic-looking trees you could imagine. All bunched up together against the concrete wall out in back of the Department of Forestry, they nearly looked passable--I always thought, "Oh wow! They've got some big ones this year!" It was only when the men hanging around started separating them that I realized they were about one-tenth of the size I had anticipated them to be.

In fact, they were so pathetic looking that I always felt an urge to rescue them to some extent. Who needed a huge Ohio-style tree like we always had growing up, anyway? It wasn't like we were going to find too many perfectly sized evergreens in Jordan's generally arid landscape. Besides, we only had about 15 cheapy ornaments that we'd bought at the stationery store to decorate with.

I'd usually drive down to Salt and pick up the tree, popping it in the trunk and muddying everything. I remember those days as always being rainy. Once I got home, I'd drape an old curtain around the tin container it was planted in and we'd usually get around to decorating it in the evening. Samer's family would sometimes come to drink tea and watch us, and usually a friend or two would drop by to help out. Not that it took very long, with our handful of ornaments.

When I first moved to Amman, Christmases were a melancholy time for me. For almost every previous year of my life (except the two years I lived in Cameroon), I had spent Christmas with my family in Ohio. Not only was it strange to be living in a country where Christmas celebrations aren't super apparent, it was also odd those first few years trying to get my Muslim husband to "get" what Christmas was all about. Sure, he'd always buy me a few gifts and would make a big effort to make me feel like I wasn't a gajillion miles away from home, but it just wasn't quite the same. The gifts were often a stretch, too; one year, one of my presents from Samer was a tube of anti-wrinkle cream. A little anti-climactic, as you might imagine.

But as the years went by, Christmas started to be more fun. Samer and I would always head over to Sweifieyeh for a few evenings to buy gifts, and most nights we were there shabab dressed up as Santa would be hanging out of the windows of passing cars and ringing bells. Kind of funny, but endearing all the same. And every year I would notice that more and more shops were decorated for Christmas. As an American, for better or worse, that elusive Christmas "spirit" has nearly everything to do with shopping--and the way shops are all decked out and playing music, etc. Jordanian establishments have definitely begun figuring out that participating in the Christmas hoopla translates into more cash, and that's probably why many shopping places have acquired a decidedly Christmas vibe.

Christmases in Jordan also began to develop into a bit of a pattern for me. Throughout the year, my mother-in-law and I would frequently go to classical music concerts, but during the Christmas season, our schedule always got a lot busier. There were tons of activities to attend, and we'd always try to get to as much as possible. One we never missed was the annual Christmas choral concert, which over the years has become quite a spectacle. The larger family also came over for dinner on Christmas evening, and that was always a fun time to be together.

As an expatriate living in Jordan, I often felt like I had two families--the family I married into and love dearly and then a whole extended family of friends, many of them expatriates, I'd become extraordinarily close to by virtue of being so far away from my American friends and family. Over the years, I developed a whole other set of traditions with these friends--many of whom were in search of imitating the Christmases all of us used to celebrate back home.

Every Christmas Eve we'd have our expat friends over for dinner and a passing party. The passing party was the sort in which we drew numbers and could steal the gift we liked best from someone else. My friend Kurt was a master at stealing his own gifts back--he was never a big fan of what the rest of us brought. Over the years, we got pretty good at thwarting him and making him end up with the cheesiest gift of the lot.

And then, every Christmas morning, after we opened our own gifts, Geeva, our maid and my dear friend, would come over with her little girl and we'd exchange gifts and hang out. The other great thing about Geeva coming by was that she'd help me out with cleaning up the piles of plates from the previous late night with friends and help me get things in tip-top condition for when the family would come over later on in the evening. I'd always have pumpkin pies cooking somewhere and enough food for 85 people piled up in the kitchen.

It's funny, but somehow those Christmases in Amman have become the definition of Christmas for me. Before, the Christmas of my imagination came complete with snow-covered rolling hills and was accompanied by the goofy Johnny Mathis album my mom and dad played non-stop beginning a few days after Thanksgiving clear on up to New Year's. Now, though, I can hardly imagine Christmas without those ridiculous Santas hanging out of their cars or hearing "Let it Snow" sung in cutely accented English at the Christmas concert with my mother-in-law. More than anything, though, I'm going to greatly miss all of our family and friends who will be doing their own thing this time around. I'm just not quite so sure I'm going to miss those scrawny little Christmas trees.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A must read

I just came across this brilliant article from the Economist on how the Arab World is beginning to change its opinion on terrorism as means of resistance. It's extremely good and well worth your time.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Father of an insurgent speaks

Ok, I wasn't planning to put anything more up today, but I just came across this really interesting article from the International Herald Tribune. It's about a guy from Salt (in Jordan) who got involved with the insurgency in Iraq--and is the brother-in-law to the apprehended female would-be suicide bomber from the Amman attacks. It's quite saddening.

Meanwhile, that's it for me until Monday. I'm looking forward to a lazy, long weekend.

Happy turkey day!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there!

The bird's in the oven, Iss and Samer have the Macy's parade on, and we're ready to eat.

Guess it's now officially the holiday season, as we were reminded last night by the homeless guy trailing us over in Capital Hill with his aggressive "Happy Holidays". . .

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Local terror, the Brothers, and enlightened security

Yesterday, I came across this piece by Suleiman Khalidi about the potential for home-grown terror in Jordan. Have to say, it was a bit unsettling. I'm dying to discuss with him whether he truly thinks it's likely or feasible and wonder what people in Jordan have to say about it. Ok, not to be too self-centered, but I often feel freaked out at being American when in Jordan. Sure, my husband's Jordanian, but it's not like I can announce that to any random person who's got it out for me and he/she'll be, like, "Oh, sorry about that." Margaret Hassan sure didn't get any special favors for being married to an Iraqi, speaking Arabic, etc.

This opinion piece in today's Guardian by Khairat el-Shatir, the vice-president of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, sure makes the Brotherhood look appealing. Check it out for yourself. Here's an excerpt:

What we want to do instead is trigger a renaissance in Egypt, rooted in the religious values upon which Egyptian culture and society is built; for we believe these values can effectively deal with the obstacles that have hindered reform and development. At present, political life in Egypt is plagued by apathy; only a few parties with puny followings are officially allowed to join the political process. The priority is therefore to revitalise political life so that citizens can join a real debate about the solutions to Egypt's chronic problems and the sort of future we want for our country. We believe that the domination of political life by a single political party or group, whether the ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood or any other, is not desirable: the only result of such a monopoly is the alienation of the majority of the people.

And here's a good one from Rami Khouri with suggestions on how and why Jordan can employ democracy to fight terror. A snippet:

Amman is swirling with political emotions, expectations and rumors, as the results of the attacks remain unclear to most people. There is also a widespread sense that things cannot stay the same. Fighting terrorism with the same old methods will work to a large extent, but will not prevent determined criminals from doing their evil deeds. A qualitatively different kind of anti-terror policy is needed, and Jordan is one of the few places in the Arab world that could envisage moving down that path.

I mentioned last week that Jordan, unlike most other Arab states, has a special opportunity to make the sorts of historic, substantive changes in its society that could provide the first successful Arab example of a country that fights terror not only by military, security and intelligence means, but also by mobilizing Jordanians to forge a political culture based on inclusion and accountability that gives the terrorists and extremists no fertile ground in which to operate.

Right on, brother.

Cute, indeed (but just a tad obsessive)

Really early this morning, I woke up from a strange dream and found that Samer had already gotten out of bed. Nothing strange; it was 6:30 and he's usually up by 6. The only odd thing was, when I went out to tell him about the dream, the house was empty. The dogbowls had been filled and were waiting for the dogs to get up, the house was spotless and it was pitch black outside. It felt a bit ominous--particularly since I was half asleep. So, I dial up Samer to see where the heck he's gone to. On the third ring, he answers, wide awake and cheerful. He's at Tully's, the cafe right by his work. Playing Civilization IV on his laptop. Now I can understand getting up at the crack of dawn and hopping on a bus to get on an early flight--as in, something scheduled that I absolutely HAD to do--but for a computer game? I'm sure he would counter that the fate of the world depends on him. All I can say is, I sure hope we're in good hands.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanksgiving

We're gearing up for our first Thanksgiving in Ballard, and I have to say it's feeling a little uneventful this year. For the past I don't know how many years, Thanksgiving for us takes place down at our little house by the Dead Sea, in Addasieyeh, with all our friends and tons of food. Since the house isn't heated, Thanksgiving usually marks the last hurrah of the season before we spend our winter weekends in Amman.

Every year, Kurt brings the pies, Samer's brother Yasser helps me out in the kitchen (well, not really) and tons of friends drop by with food and good cheer. It's always so much fun. We also always make a big bonfire outside after eating and hang out watching the lights of all the settlements over in the West Bank--and as far as Jerusalem sometimes, if we're lucky.

It seems like Thanksgiving here in the States is going to be a pretty different affair. For one thing, we don't, uh, have hardly any friends here. And everyone we DO know isn't far from their families like many of our friends were back in Amman. Families always take precedence. We ended up having the best of both worlds in Jordan--Samer's family (who had no clue what Thanksgiving was about, really) and a whole family of close friends we celebrated all the fun stuff with.

Luckily, a few of our favorite people will be coming over to our place this Thanksgiving, though. At least it will be fun to spend our first downsized Thanksgiving with them.

Bombin' those we don't like

There's been a bit of talk about a leak to London't Daily Mirror of a document recording a conversation between Bush and Tony Blair in which Blair persuaded Bush not to bomb Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar. I can't tell if it's really credible or not, but I keep wondering if there might be a mix-up. The US did bomb Al-Jazeera in Baghdad--just a little bit more than a year before the alleged conversation on 16 April 2004. Perhaps the fact that it had already happened once before makes it much less shocking that he'd be thinking about doing it a second time around.

Hell freezes over

Ok, I'm shocked to find myself saying this, but I'm hopeful that Ariel Sharon's decision to leave Likud may indeed be a good thing. Who knows what it means, really, since I don't expect the Palestinians to end up jumping for joy at any future decision he makes. One thing's pretty certain, though: Netanyahu is foiled. And that definitely gives me reason to gloat--all the more so after I read his crybaby remarks in today's Guardian.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Suicidal tendencies

It's a typical Monday here. I'm in a bit of a crunch, trying to get stuff for Thanksgiving, get the house together, etc. Saturday was filled with a shoot for a classmate's documentary on the mysterious closure of a Seattle amusement park in the early 1960's. Sunday, luckily, was a bit more laidback. I caught up with a ton of things and am feeling ready for a progressively lazier week.

I've been thinking for days to respond to an opinion piece I came across about a week ago. It's by Dennis Prager, who's apparently a radio personality in LA, and entitled, "Five Questions Non-Muslims Would Like Answered." Fair enough, I thought, when I saw the title--because I, for one, often get frustrated that Muslims globally don't do nearly as much as they should to speak out against mindless terrorism. Or even that middle-of-the-road Muslims don't do a better job of showing the world that their beliefs and way of life are pretty darn close to those of the rest of us.

However, when I read the piece, I found myself getting more and more annoyed. Who is this guy, anyway? He prefaces his piece by lumping people who are rioting in France as a result of a sustained national policy of racism along with the terrorists who blew themselves up in Amman hotels, clearly showing that he has the same affliction most Americans have when it comes to Arabs and Muslims: cluelessness. Sure, he's entitled to his opinion, but a little education should be in order before he further influences others to see Muslims' various situations around the globe as one and the same.

There are so many points I'd like to bring up here regarding the terrorism that takes place in Iraq and in the name of Al-Qaeda compared to the situation in Palestine, and the way that Israel's systematic occupation and assault on Palestinians' human rights has affected the nature of violence emanating from the West Bank and Gaza. Yes, here I'm referring to Palestinian suicide bombers. We may not like it--and I personally am horrified by it--but I also have a good idea where the hopelessness and anger that have influenced it to happen comes from.

Unfortunately, most Americans don't have that much of an idea, and as a result, people like Dennis Prager get prime space in one of our top US newspapers to further muddy the waters. I certainly had no idea--and all my daily newspaper reading on the subject didn't help me out at all--until I made my first trip through the West Bank on the way to Jerusalem. I was utterly stunned by what I saw and learned there.

This, perhaps, should be a post in and of itself--because I could go on for days about what I saw and felt each time I've been in the West Bank. However, since I need to be doing a gajillion things, I'm going to simply suggest that if you have a chance to see "Paradise Now," which is about Palestinian suicide bombers, that you do so. We're going this Wednesday eve, and I'm looking forward to it. I'll also leave you with a response to Prager's article that I found on Khaled's blog. Some of the responses are right on:

Here are my own personal answers; I speak only for myself not for anyone else;

(1) Why are you so quiet?

Well, Israel occupied Palestinian land and the whole world was quiet for over 50 years, did you bother to ask why that is?
A handicap old man being killed by a missile from an F16 killing him and everybody around him on his way from worshiping God, or a whole camp being slaughtered with the blessing of the Israeli army or a rocket hitting the apartment of a political man killing him and 9 of his family members is also called terrorism.
While I might not agree with people blowing up themselves, I also do not agree on F16 rocketing civilians.
You personally didn't say anything about the F16? I haven't been through what the Palestinian been through these years. I don't know what makes a person strap a bomb around him and go around blowing himself along with everybody around him. Must have been a tough life.
I pray for both people to find peace together.

(2) Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?

That's a false statement. Wadee Hadad, George Habbash and many Palestinian organization leaders are Christians.

(3) Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?

Easy, most leaders were appointed by The British and were help to stay in power by the Americans. Which is something the US is rethinking.

(4) Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?

Well, a lot worse has been done by Christians, remember McVeigh? The Crusades?

(5) Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?

I would blame this on the government itself not Islam, if you read the history of Islam you would find that Islam is the most tolerance of all. Are there any mosques or temples in the Vatican City?

Peace

Friday, November 18, 2005

Great story, guy

My reaction to the latest word from that thug Zarqawi and his plan to further terrorize Jordan (see here)--just certainly never Jordanians again, no that was a mistake--is to want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. I'm kind of ashamed to admit it--because I also feel extremely outraged--but the way the craziness seems to have multiplied substantially in the Middle East is really starting to get me down.

Samer and I just discussed and he believes most Jordanians will react the way he is--with an outrage that these people are attempting to take over his country. That any place (the Dead Sea, hotels, Aqaba) in Jordan may be off limits. Well, that simplifies it, but I honestly don't feel like going further into it right now.

I was looking at an article written in The Guardian a bit ago (before Zarqawi's statement came out) and the following popped out at me:

After one demonstration, two men were writing anti-Iraqi graffiti on a mobile wall provided for the purpose. . ."I don't care if Israel occupies two-thirds of the Arab world and America occupies Iraq for ever. Let them go fight in their countries, I want Jordan safe."

Samer's opinion is that Jordanians of all stripes intrisically believe Jordan's very existence has always and will always depend on it being a place of safety amidst the chaos surrounding it. A strike to alter that reality is picking a very serious fight. I don't quite know what to think but am dying to hear from people back in Amman. I want to believe that people aren't buying Zarqawi's latest trash.

I also came across a good posting on the blog Oleander. His response, as well, to one of the comments on his post was very astute--"We see how much they care about not targeting Muslims from their actions in Iraq." How true.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

And now, something a little different

While I've been stuck over at Google News the past week skimming through the headlines, I am starting to diversify a bit. I came across a great piece on Salon that looks at the relationship between the young, urban slackers who move into cities' urban ghettos, the inevitable yuppification that ensues, and (this is the most interesting part) the way in which the artistic and design ethos of these enclaves gets sucked into the general, and globalized, culture. It all reminds me of those years after college, hanging out in Somerville and Central Square in Cambridge, which both went the way of Starbuck's long ago. Anyway, the Salon piece is a book review of Richard Lloyd's Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

. . . the economic marginality of neo-bohemia didn't last long, which is after all what makes it "neo." (Lloyd makes the often neglected point that older bohemian districts like Greenwich Village were viewed with disdain by America's puritanical establishment, and to "slum" there was a sign of moral dubiousness.) By the early '90s -- and somewhat earlier in environments like San Francisco and New York -- these neighborhoods had become, Lloyd writes, "distinctly themed spaces of consumption fawningly advertised by the mainstream media." Exactly why magazines and newspapers became so universally entranced by the hipness factor of the East Village or the Mission or Wicker Park is perhaps a subject for another book, but it's clearly not unconnected to America's decade-late discovery of punk rock, in the personage of Kurt Cobain.

Interesting stuff.

I've also started up Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and am completely entranced.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Stuff to read

I'm feeling a little too overwhelmed with all the stuff I've been reading to comment much on it, so I'm just going to put up some of the articles that have been worthwhile. All of them concern the incidents in Amman of late as well as the latest musings on what it all means. Check them out--they're worth your time.

"Kingdom of Boredom No More," BBC News (a journalist based in Amman gives his take on the events)

"In Jordan, the Knives are Out for the National Agenda," Lebanon's Daily Star

"Tragedy as Impetus in Jordan," David Ignatius, The Wahington Post

"The Puzzle of the Suicide Bomber," The Washington Post

"Arab Opinion is Not Monolithic When it Comes to Religion," Rami Khouri, The Daily Star

The elites continue to suffer

A friend alerted me to this article--if it can be called that--from Lebanon's English-language Daily Star. I was appalled that first of all, a newspaper would print such crap, but also that the author had no qualms whatsoever at airing the depth of her obnoxiousness.

The general treatment of foreign workers in the Middle East is appalling, but most people seem to be in denial about it. Every time I mentioned anything on the subject, people would always tell me how generous they were with their own maids. I mean, they give their maid a day off, for God's sake, which supposedly is the pinnacle of generosity.

It's racism, pure and simple. One aspect I've always loved about Islam is its very clear message that there should be no differentiation between races. It was quite an amazing concept for someone like me who grew up in the Bible Belt, yet saw racism occur continually throughout my growing up years.

It would be an understatement to say I was shocked at the deep-seated racism I found in Amman, particularly aimed at Sri Lankan, Filipino and Egyptian foreign workers. The Koran's message sure ain't doing them any good.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Belonging

Samer posted the other day about an email we received from a good friend we've known for years. She's one of my great friends, and Samer and I both spent a lot of time with her each time she would come through Amman. She writes, as you can see on Samer's blog, about identity and how the recent bombings have highlighted her dilemma of where she fits in as the wife of an Arab and someone who has spent a good chunk of her life in the Arab World.

Can I ever relate. Since everything happened last Wednesday, not only have I yearned to be back in Amman but I also feel like I know every nuance of how people are taking it back there, what they're talking about, how they're feeling. I guess part of why I feel a bit adrift is because Amman, in many ways, is where I feel at home and "comfortable" with the general manner in which everything gets parsed publicly--at dinner tables, in everyday conversation, continually and non-stop. It's definitely different from here in Seattle, where people seem to be genuinely concerned to make sure no one I know, or from our family, was hurt but then quickly ready to move on and avoid revealing just how much they don't understand about how things work over there in the Middle East.

But the irony is that for as much as I feel at home there, Jordan is not my home. And while living there, I never forgot it. It's not that I didn't want to forget it--blending in was my one true aspiration--but rather that I was always reminded of how I was an outsider.

I often joke when people ask me why we moved to America that one of the big reasons was that I was dying to be anonymous. Honestly, probably every day during the 7 years that I was in Jordan, I was asked where I was from. Usually, it was in the context of people remarking on my Arabic and asking me how I spoke it so well--all in the name of being friendly and truly interested in who I was. For me, though, day after day, it became yet another reminder that I was different--not one of them, but someone who was doing a good job at approximating it.

At probably every dinner table that I sat with a group of older Jordanians, when talk turned to politics, and the U.S.--as it inevitably ALWAYS does--there was always a look my way, or a barely perceptible smirk in my direction. I always picked up on it, and while most of the time my political views were in accord with everyone at the table, I couldn't help but feel like, yet again, there was something I was missing in my ongoing quest to fit in.

In many ways, trying to be like everyone else--and not be seen primarily as a representative from the country I was born in--is psychologically tiring. I feel completely loved and accepted by Samer's parents and have a wonderful communtiy of friends in Amman. However, the bigger chore of making a life in another country and coming to terms with the fact that no matter if I spend the rest of my days in Jordan I will be considered an outsider of sorts--an American first and foremost--is a much more difficult task. Perhaps that's why I enjoy the freedom of anonymity here. I don't have to give a backstory to anyone, and I can generally go about my business without alerting anyone to just how much of an outsider I am. Because I certainly don't feel like everyone else here in the U.S., either.

But that's a whole other story. What I'm finding really ironic, though, is just how much more people in the Arab community here identify me as one of them in some way. That's something I never, ever felt back in Amman, and I have to say I'm happily surprised. Part of the reason for this is because I'm a new transplant (along with my family) from Jordan, and many in the community have been here for years and don't have as fresh a link to life back in the Middle East. The fact that I speak Arabic--and speak it with my son--perhaps is a factor as well. There are a number of Arab-Americans I've met here who are my age and don't speak Arabic. And I don't mean to imply that I'm thought of as being Arab, but just that I'm accepted for who I am. I don't have to feel shy and awkward speaking Arabic with my family (which is pretty weird to do back in Amman) and I can talk politics with the best of them without a smirk in sight.

It's enjoyable, for now, but I have a niggling feeling we'll eventually find ourselves back in Amman at some point. Maybe by that time I'll have a different view on how I fit in there--and how much it matters to me--but in the meantime, it's kind of nice being anonymous.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Five days later. . .

Over the weekend, I nearly imploded from all the online searching I was doing to figure out what the heck's going on over in Amman. Pretty soon I realized that most of the stuff I was seeing in the morning would only be rehashed throughout the day since it was nearly nightfall in Amman by the time I woke up here on the other side of the planet. That didn't stop me from the search, however.

It's difficult for me to organize my thoughts on what's happened--even 5 days later. Actually, in the days right after the bombings, my feelings were pretty much concentrated on all the anger and outrage I felt. The anger's still here today, but with all the stuff I've been reading and, I suppose, the distance of a bit of time, I'm feeling uncertain about what all this means.

The pundits and "experts" are everywhere--weighing in on how it will affect King Abdullah and the future of Jordan. There's been some really harsh criticism of his leadership and the choices he's made (see Robert Fisk's latest, which even shocked me) as well as a number of presumptions that Zarqawi's idiotic plot was actually a more strategic plan to distabilize Jordan. Reading this stuff can kind of get to me, but honestly, I think the guys writing it are pretty out of touch. I'm not a big fan of Abdullah, but I in no way think he's in over his head.

Anyway, I'm a little played out with thinking about all of it. I WILL, though, direct your attention to a few articles I've come across of late that are worth a read. In the NYTimes, Neil MacFarquhar's article looks at the overreaching role of the secret police in Jordan and the Arab World, with the extremely interesting suggestion that their effort would be best used in concentrating on terror rather than policing the minutae of everyday life. Suleiman Khalidi, over at Reuters, also has a good one discussing King Abdullah's new difficult job.





Weekend recap

The weekend went way too fast. Somehow, we ended up at the mall and after that it didn't stop. I went to see "Pride and Prejudice" Saturday night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Unlike most period pieces, this one definitely had some life to it and didn't feel contrived in the way they so often do.

Sunday was filled with shooting Samer and Ghassan in the morning, Nayan's 4th birthday party in the afternoon and an opening for Deep's show over at Khadidja's in the evening (where my old buddy Liz Mogford joined us.) For those of you here in Seattle, drop by and see Deep's stuff. It's at the Neighborhood Cafe, on 70th St. NW (off 15th Ave.)

I'm popping a few pictures up now, but I also just set up a Flickr account with a bunch of photos I took over the weekend. You can see those here, if you're interested.


Friday, November 11, 2005

The Retardideen (aka Mutakhalifeen), more like

For the past couple of days I've been feeling awful. Sleeping fitfully, not wanting to get out of bed. Samer and I were talking last night and I told him that I was feeling homesick for Amman. For some reason, there's nowhere else I want to be right now, and I'm not sure why. When I asked Samer if he was feeling homesick as well, he said he was not so sure--that his sense of what home is has gotten a bit screwed up over the years. Mine too, obviously, since I'm feeling homesick for Amman.

Anyway, he thinks these guys messed up in bombing Amman and killing Jordanians, and I'm beginning to think he might be right. When I saw the pictures taken at demonstrations over the past few days, I was happily surprised to see that people from all walks of life are represented. West Ammani, East Ammani, youth, the elderly, conservative and non-conservative types. I had originally assumed that the demonstrators would be resoundingly from West Amman--the more Western, socio-economically "comfortable" part of town. East Ammanis are decidedly more conservative and religious, and I wasn't sure that a bombing in the Western part of their city would be enough to affect their general sympathy for those espousing terror. But it looks to me like East Ammanis made up the bulk of the demonstrations--which I find incredibly heartening.

Now, this Al Qaeda--Zarqawi and Co.--who claims to be acting to abet the best wishes of Muslims, is clearly a bunch of retards. If they're so plugged in, what the heck where they doing bombing Amman's big hotels? How could they have not known that these hotels have always been one of the few places where East and West Ammanis commingle? And this happens primarily through the wedding parties they hold nearly nightly throughout the year.

All Jordanians know this--it's a cornerstone of life in Jordan. You don't have to be a West Ammani "elite" to hold your wedding at the Radisson SAS, and the wedding party that were there on Wednesday night was clearly just a regular Jordanian family. They didn't represent "Western" values in any way--the bride and groom's mothers wore headscarves, which generally connotes that their families are traditional and conservative.

Apparently, these guys attempted to justify the bombings based on their belief that the hotels house Israelis and foreigners who are part of the big plot against the Arab World, and Iraq, in particular. Well then, how does the wedding party thing jibe with this? It's pretty clear that they're just a bunch of bumbling retards. For real.

And not only that, but how sophomoric is the 9/11 all over again thing? It's like they were sitting in a room going, "Oh, I have an idea. Let's do it on the Arab World's 9/11! We're so smart! Last time Americans--this time Arabs!" I mean, can you get more predictable and pathetic than that? These guys are trying to take over the world, man--can't they do something a little more original than that?

I'm hoping beyond hope that Jordanian sentiment will mark a turning point for all of this nonsense. We can only hope so.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A few updates

I felt a little weird mentioning the article I saw on Haaretz yesterday about Israelis leaving Amman shortly before the bombings. I definitely didn't want to spawn any conspiracy theories. However, Haaretz published a correction today. It reports that Israelis were escorted out shortly after the bombs.

For a more local update on what's going on in Amman, check out these pictures taken from today's demonstration as well as this site that includes reaction and reports from Jordanian bloggers.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Can't kill them fast enough

Somehow we all knew this would happen. For the past 4 or so years, whenever I walked into any of Amman's 5-star hotels (which was at least 3 times a week), I would always wonder if I'd be able to escape if something happened. I'd make sure my mobile phone was close by or decide not to take the elevator just in case. As if it all would make any difference.

God knows how many people didn't manage to escape this evening. And I, for the life of me, can't figure out who was targeted. The Hyatt and the Radisson are full of Americans, but the majority of the casualties are Jordanian. Those planning the attacks had to have known that would have been the result. So, what is the point, exactly? These guys are out to kill indiscriminately, apparently, and have no interest in promoting any kind of reason for why they're doing it.

For the whole afternoon, I've had the socked-in-the-gut feeling along with total outrage. Soon after I heard the news, I found myself driving behind a car with a bumper sticker that said, "We're making enemies faster than we can kill them." How unbelievably true.

Now, not to feed any conspiracy theories at all--honestly--but I read an article from Haaretz I found while scanning Google News entitled, "Israelis Evacuated from Amman Hotel Hours Before Bombings." Might there have been something that could have been done to avoid the attacks?

You might also want to follow Suleiman Khalidi's coverage of the latest news from Amman. He's with Reuters and seems to get more and better info than most of the foreign press stuff (he speaks Arabic--unlike them.)

"Gaza Strip"

Please. Go out as soon as you can and rent the film "Gaza Strip." For all of you who haven't quite understood why I'm always yapping on about how horrible life is for Palestinians and why the issue of Palestine is the #1 one in the Middle East, this film will give you the visuals to know why. And you will never question again.

From the groups of random schoolchildren getting shot at and killed, to images of people suffering from toxic/nerve gas the Israelis indiscriminately catapult into their neighborhood, this film gives a version of life under the Israeli occupation that's definitely never seen here in the States. It's left me with a sense of outrage not only that this is happening, but also that hardly anyone here has any idea it's going on. Even after living in Amman for the past 7 years, where we were often bombarded with images from the intifada that's been going on since 2000, I'm still shocked to see many of the film's images and the extent of cold-blooded evil the Israeli army is getting away with.

James Longley, the director, is currently finishing up a documentary on the current situation in Iraq that he shot over a 2-year period. I imagine there'll be some kind of screening of it here in Seattle, since he's doing all the editing over at 911 Media Center.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Another Saddam lawyer murdered

From today's Guardian:

"I don't understand how you can have a fair trial in this atmosphere of insecurity, with bombs going off,'' said Richard Goldstone, the first prosecutor at the U.N. tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and one of the world's most prominent jurists.

My thoughts exactly.

We are the torturers, my friend

I, for one, certainly don't believe Bush in his insistence that the US does not engage in torture of prisoners. He's apparently already forgotten about Abu Ghraib and not too eager to bring up the gajillion other places, known or unknown, where we're holding prisoners. And the notion that the CIA has prisons all over the place--isn't that old news? I remember the Washington Post breaking the story a few years ago that the US has prisons around the world--Jordan, as well--in countries that don't have hangups with torturing prisoners.

And now the latest are questions surfacing on whether the US used chemical weapons on civilians in Fallujah. Check out the Christian Science Monitor's coverage and try to figure out for yourself. Can't say I'd be too surprised.

A weekend of film

Somehow I managed to see a whole bunch of films over the weekend. We started out with "Chicken Little" on request from Issy. What two-year old requests movies, anyway?

Man, what a stupid movie. And what a real stretch to come up with a feature-length film on the guy whose only claim to fame was yelling around that the sky was falling. I kept thinking, too, that it was kind of ironic that most of the humor had to do with life in junior high, particularly because aren't junior high kids watching things like "American Pie" and way finished with "Chicken Little"-type stuff? Somewhere in the middle of the movie--a few minutes before Samer fell asleep--I looked over at him and said, "I can't believe this is what we now come to see on a Saturday afternoon."

Samer watched Iss on Sunday so I could get away to see "The Squid and the Whale." It was a bit spotty in places, but generally quite good. I was feeling so sad throughout it for the poor kids who were getting bandied about by their parents, all the while suspecting that parenthood has a lot to do with being extra emotional when sad kid stuff happens. It killed me when Walt ran back to the exhibition at the American History museum where he used to go with his mother when he was little. Gosh, I think all of us yearn in some way or another to be back in those simplistic days of childhood when we had all the time in the world to dream and let our moms take care of us.

In my frenzy to figure out how to put my film together, I also have been running through a number of documentaries. First I saw "Noam Chomsky: Rebel Without a Pause," which was enjoyable content-wise but very inspirational for people like me who are just honing editing and camera skills. The editing and camerawork were a mess, more or less.

I also saw "Be Good, Smile Pretty," which came out a few years ago and tells the story of a young woman searching for the memory of her father who died in Vietnam when she was, like, four months old. Think I cried from one minute in clear to the end. The fact that we're now in a Vietnam-like conflict with 2000+ of our soldiers dead obviously makes it very timely. Somehow it never occurs to me to think about the individual stories of all these young men we hear about who are dying almost daily. Honestly, in many ways, it doesn't feel in any tangible way that this is a country at war. It's only thinking about these individual stories that's so touching and upsetting.

Pics from the weekend

We've been so lucky to have great friends who introduce us to great friends. I met Indira and her family through an old friend I met when I first moved to Amman who now teaches in Indira's department at Johns Hopkins. It's great to have them back in town after their long trip to India. Issy and Raji, their little one, had a blast:



Monday, November 07, 2005

On dogs and kids (our favorite pets)

The other day I mentioned how firecrackers were the bane of our existence back in Amman. For every holiday (including wedding season, which was all day/all night spring through summer), we were completely heartsick watching Amina shake neurotically there in the bathtub while the firecrackers and celebratory gunshots went off. During the eid celebrations, one of the perks of getting out of town--we usually always travelled somewhere--was being far away from the noise and the shakes.

Amina's always been a neurotic dog, and at some point I decided she'd be better off--and would mellow out--if she had a dog friend. So we eventually found ourselves trekking to Italy to pick up Jasper, who ended up making absolutely no difference whatsoever in Amina's spazziness. In fact, Amina's behavior has actually rubbed off on Jasper. He now, for example, gets the shakes on July 4th and freaks out whenever he sees that she is.

Samer and I used to exert so much energy thinking about the dogs, their "issues," and what we could do to help them be normal. Not that they weren't close to normal, but living in the Arab World isn't a very easy experience for mutts. Most Muslims aren't big fans, and even when people weren't trying to evade the dogs due to their "dirtyness," they were generally afraid and quite often hysterical around them. Not to mention kids, who even when they were trying to interact with the dogs in a nice way, didn't know what to do besides kick them. And then there were the numerous grown men who'd drive by when we were walking the dogs and bark loudly. I was never quite sure what that was about.

Speaking of uncleanliness, many religious types back in Amman would say stuff about how dogs were so dirty, how they ate poop, etc. I was always shocked to hear this, because I had never, ever heard of a dog eating caca. Until we got Jasper, who had a serious predilection for the sheep crap that was littered everywhere around our house down by the Dead Sea. Of course, in an effort to promote cultural understanding (or at least dissuade people from thinking we were disgusting freaks), I would always respond with shock when people would say how dirty dogs are. "Never! Dogs don't do that!" I'd say, and make sure to let them know they were potty trained and never--NEVER--peed inside (even though Jas and Amina DID plenty enough.)

Anyway, once Issy came along, we began devoting a lot less time to pampering the dogs. Actually, some days during Issy's first year we were so overwhelmed with chasing him around we realized a couple of hours too late that we forgot to put out dogfood. The dogs quickly adapted to the new setup just fine, but they've still got their separation anxiety issues and general neuroses.

The only thing is, after being here in the U.S., sometimes I wonder if I'm slacking off on the job of "raising" the dogs. Because taking good care of your dog in this town is of the utmost importance--people are a little over the top about it. My first encounter with this was here in the neighborhood. We'd be walking together, all of us, with the two dogs, and instead of people smiling at my cute 2 year old, they would completely ignore him in their haste to make over the dogs--complete with baby talk, worrying about whether it may be too hot for them and pointing to the closest store with dogtreats and water out on the sidewalk. Yep, nearly every other shop on our main drag has water bowls and treats out for the local dogs.

It's kind of endearing, albeit a little strange when you consider that there are a number of establishments on the same street with signs asking that you don't bring the children in. I made the mistake of walking into one, a place called Duque that is sort of a wannabe hip and cool hairdresser's with various beauty products in the storefront. Nothing special, really. When Issy and I walked in to see if they had some kind of shampoo I needed, I couldn't figure out why no one would even acknowlege my presence or say "hi." They were certainly super friendly to everyone else. It wasn't until I closed the door that I saw a little sign among the visual clutter of their logos everywhere that said "About the kids" and said not to bring them in because of the "delicate nature" of their work. All the while it looked to me they were just selling a whole big bunch of products.

The only thing I could think was how Americans invest way too much time on being persnickety. I mean, what's the big deal, really, if a kid comes into your establishment? It's not like the world's going to stop if he or she makes a loud noise or something.

And restaurants. There are a bunch of places we haven't been to because they're not kid friendly. In Jordan, when we'd go to restaurants, people would've probably freaked out if we brought the dogs along, but the waiters would nearly always take Issy away to play with him and feed him while Samer and I chowed down. That doesn't seem too likely to happen here.

When I first came back from two years away in Cameroon, I was floored by the tons of Petcos and other animal specialty shops that had sprung up in my absence. You could take your dog in there with you and let him sample the various dogfoods. It was ridiculous, I remember thinking. Well, that's old hat, for sure. Here in Seattle, there are stores whose whole existence depends on selling gourmet dog treats. I just wonder if they'll let me bring my kid in to buy them.

Where's Syria's opposition?

After reading this in The Boston Globe, I'm not feeling too optimistic about options for Syria if or when things in the regime get mixed up. You probably won't either.

Israel's media problem

As you might guess, it's not only here in the U.S. that the media needs some working on. The Guardian has a piece that looks at a new book examining the way the Israeli media covers the Palestinian issue. The author, Daniel Dor, is a lecturer in media studies at Tel Aviv University and a former editor.

Friday, November 04, 2005

His Achilles Heel

Civilzation IV is out! Quick--take a good look at Samer, because you won't see him for at least another 6 months:


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Eid Mubarak

Happy Eid to one and all!

Ramadan was really harrowing for us this year. We actually ate like gluttons every day and all day (it was especially bad when Mom and Dad were here.) Unfortunately, though, no qatieyef to push us to the point of explosion.

Anyway, break out the m'aamoul and let's celebrate! I'm, at the very least, celebrating that Amina (our little fox terrier) is not camped out in the bathtub with the shakes like she did during all the firecracker-filled eids she weathered in Amman.

My son, the twerp

Just for all of you who wonder how Issy's been shaping up since you haven't seen him in a while:

The other night when Samer and I went to do the first shoot for my new short film, we left Issy at a friend's house. She called and told me that while she was watching him, she was trying to set up the computer so they could play a game. The computer kept crashing and she said something like, "Oh, man! That stinks!" To which Issy replied, "Yeh. It's ridiculous and pathetic and I'm so annoyed." When she asked him where he'd learned those words (my dad's been a great vocab teacher of late), he said, "Nobody."

Mom has got him doing "I-S-S-Y spells Issy," and he can spell Baba and Mama, too. My only comment, like Samer's mom's last night, is: if he can spell his name, how come he still can't make caca on the toilet? The mysteries, the mysteries.

Observation of the day, No. 2

Seems like every time I'm in a conversation with anyone living here in Seattle--which is quite often, as you'd imagine--the talk of buying a house or upgrading to a better one comes up. And then everyone starts talking about the outrageous prices for those little, bitty houses down the street from them, clacking their tongues, and next saying they're looking for something just a tad bigger.

As usual, I'm the odd man out, since we're renters and trying to figure out how we'll ever end up in a place that's not 1/10th of the size of our old place back in Amman once we buy. We're in no hurry for the disappointment.

Which gets me thinking. Nobody--I mean NOBODY--ever talked to me in Amman about the travails of buying a house. It just ain't one of the main concerns.

Now politics--that's the property discussion equivalent back in Amman. The one you just couldn't escape. You know, the state of affairs over in Iraq, the latest crap going down in the West Bank, etc. It was always depressing and frustrating to feel like there was nothing at all I could do, but somehow when talking about that stuff I always felt priviledged to not be in the firing line. All this talk about homes and $500,000 mortgages, though, makes me feel like the gun's pointed at me--"Buy, buy! Prices are climbing! Everybody's doing it!" Oh, the trials of middle-class life here in the US. . .

Observation of the day, No. 1

Rainy season seems to be upon us. I love that people here in Seattle don't completely alter their lives when it rains. In Amman, whenever it would rain, it was a great excuse for people to cancel appointments in a way I'd compare to when we'd get 3 feet of snow back in Boston. And no one EVER walked in the rain. As soon as a few drops would fall, people would scurry inside.

This morning we went to storytime at the library, and I was having a blast walking in the rain. Hadn't done that in a really long time. . .

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Shooting Samer and Ghassan

Last night in film class we did the first shoot with Samer and Ghassan, and it went quite well. Neither of them was as nervous as I'd feared--in fact, they were remarkably at ease despite all the people, lights and equipment--and some interesting stuff came out in the interview.

It was very encouraging to see the group's positive response to the topics the guys brought up (the transition to becoming more of an individual in the States, their take on whether the freedom they discovered in the US is truly what they thought it was, etc.) since for me it was pretty preliminary stuff. Hopefully, the subject matter will interest people as much as I'd like it to.

It's also very cool to get to start learning how to work with lights and a better camera. My idea of filming before was just to grab my little Sony, try to find decent light somewhere and film.

Scowcroft's take on Bush in Iraq

There's an excellent piece in the current New Yorker on Brent Scowcroft's falling out with George W. I was amazed to learn that he's way outside Washington's circle of influence--especially since he had such a tight relationship with Bush I and was a mentor to Condoleezza Rice. Much of it boils down to the neocons' difference in opinion regarding the use of force--Scowcroft was never a proponent of taking down Saddam. So apparently, the Gulf War was truly planned to finish up without messing around with Saddam or going into Baghdad. I'd never known that for sure.

The article was written by none other than Jeff Goldberg, who we met in Amman when he convinced Samer to sell him a few paintings. That was back in the day when Samer showed a lot of his work with the disclaimer that it was not for sale--back before we had tons and tons of paintings filling up the house/studio just hanging around. Anyway, Jeff had been in town to profile King Abdullah for the New York Times Magazine. He's since moved on to the New Yorker and we always end up discussing his stuff somehow--it's usually on topics that are right up our alley.

The article's not available online, but an interview with Goldberg on the piece can be found at the New Yorker site.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Foreign journalists barred from Gaza Strip

Oh, lovely. The Israeli "Defense" Force is at it again. How come I only read about this stuff in the UK media?

You can do it!

The Seattle P-I has a good one that takes a look at Bashar's predicament now that the UN has his brother-in-law and brother under suspicion of being involved in Hariri's murder. After reading it, I'm rooting for him to dump them and start spreading peace and goodwill. Well, maybe that's a long shot, but I still think Bashar's not all that bad.

It's raining, it's pouring

It never stops

Here and there in the news is the latest on the UN's attempts to get access to Guantanamo Bay prison. The UN reps are being allowed by the US to enter, but forbidden to interview any of the detainees. Sure doesn't make much sense, since Cheney and cronies say they have nothing to hide.

A recent Washington Post article claims that inmates are so desperate and have been so mistreated that they're resorting to suicide. One Bahraini inmate, Jumah Dossari, recently attempted suicide during a restroom break while meeting with his American lawyer. The article documents "36 suicide attempts by 22 different detainees, including three in the past 20 months."

An example of what's been going on:

Dossari, 26, said U.S. troops have put out cigarettes on his skin, threatened to kill him and severely beat him. He told his lawyer that he saw U.S. Marines at Kandahar "using pages of the Koran to shine their boots," and was brutalized at Guantanamo Bay by Immediate Response Force guards who videotaped themselves attacking him.

This stuff still has the power to shock me--probably, because I, like most Americans, was raised to believe that our country actually values human rights and while actions like that may be done elsewhere, they're clearly not part of our country's repertoire. So much for that. I've definitely seen a vastly hightened sense of outrage in the UK press than in this country that the UN monitors are banned from interviewing. Where's the sense of outrage here?

The other night Ghida came over and we watched "Battle of Algiers." At one of the scenes in which captured Algerians were being tortured by their French captors, Ghida looked over at me and said, "This is what's going on now." It's unbelievable to me that nothing has really changed from then until now, and that this time our military has the dishonor of engaging in such shameful acts.