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UPDATED BELOW!!

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I certainly hope so (but more importantly, why the hell is there a picture of Paris Hilton on this blog?)

The central question I have here is, “why has no one inspected these stations before?” I suppose everyone takes for granted that, at the very least, the instrumentation used to measure global temperatures would exist in a sort of vacuum–sensibly placed, with intelligent forethought into the environments wherein they were to abide while undergoing regular and reasonable maintenance.

According to a recently launched study by Anthony Watts at his site Surface Stations (currently offline understandably due to excessive traffic), anthropogenic global warming may in large part simply be due to human error, and possibly stupidity, when placing weather stations, and specifically global temperature measuring thermometers.

Mr. Watts is still in the beginning stages of his study (50 stations out of around 1200 in the United States) and drawing serious conclusions at this point might be a tad hasty. If his early inspections are anything to go by though, the pro-anthropogenic global warming camp may have to dream up a new way to bamboozle the public into believing that man is primarily responsible for the inevitable world-wide catastrophe due to our meddlings in the ways of mother nature (for crying out loud, the United Nations has just claimed that global warming is responsible for the genocide in Darfur–it looks as if U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is turning out a greater kook than was Kofi Annan.

Who knows? Perhaps the inconvenient truth is that Paris Hilton is more pertinent than global warming.

 

Helping along global warming

By Bill Steigerwald
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, June 17, 2007

Remember in January when the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its good friends in media trumpeted that 2006 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States? NOAA based that finding – which allegedly capped a nine-year warming streak “unprecedented in the historical record” – on the daily temperature data that its National Climatic Data Center gathers from about 1,221 mostly rural weather observation stations around the country.

Few people have ever seen or even heard of these small, simple-but-reliable weather stations, which quietly make up what NOAA calls its United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN).

But the stations play an important role in detecting and analyzing regional climate change. More ominously, they provide the official baseline historical temperature data that politically motivated global-warming alarmists like James Hansen of NASA plug into their computer climate models to predict various apocalypses.

NOAA says it uses these 1,221 weather stations — which like the ones in Uniontown and New Castle are overseen by local National Weather Service offices and usually tended to by volunteers — because they have been providing reliable temperature data since at least 1900.

But Anthony Watts of Chico, Calif., suspects NOAA temperature readings are not all they’re cracked up to be. As the former TV meteorologist explains on his sophisticated, newly hatched Web site surfacestations.org, he has set out to do what big-time armchair-climate modelers like Hansen and no one else has ever done – physically quality-check each weather station to see if it’s being operated properly.

To assure accuracy, stations (essentially older thermometers in little four-legged wooden sheds or digital thermometers mounted on poles) should be 100 feet from buildings, not placed on hot concrete, etc. But as photos on Watts’ site show, the station in Forest Grove, Ore., stands 10 feet from an air-conditioning exhaust vent. In Roseburg, Ore., it’s on a rooftop near an AC unit. In Tahoe, Calif., it’s next to a drum where trash is burned.

Watts, who says he’s a man of facts and science, isn’t jumping to any rash conclusions based on the 40-some weather stations his volunteers have checked so far. But he said Tuesday that what he’s finding raises doubts about NOAA’s past and current temperature reports.

“I believe we will be able to demonstrate that some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment.”

Meanwhile, you probably missed the latest about 2006. As NOAA reported on May 1 – with minimum mainstream-media fanfare – 2006 actually was the second- warmest year ever recorded in America, not the first. At an annual average of 54.9 degrees F, it was a whopping 0.08 degrees cooler than 1998, still the hottest year.

NOAA explained that it had updated its 2006 report “to reflect revised statistics” and “better address uncertainties in the instrumental record.” This tinkering is standard procedure. NOAA always scientifically tweaks temperature readings for various reasons — weather stations are moved to different locations, modernized, affected by increased urbanization, etc.

NOAA didn’t say whether it had adjusted for uncertainties caused by nearby burn barrels.

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Here’s a notable excerpt from Anthony Watts, Surface Stations website, courtesy of Newsbusters

Will Media Ever Investigate Accuracy of Weather Stations?

Posted by Noel Sheppard on June 18, 2007 – 15:30.

Assume for a moment there was evidence some weather stations around the country were underestimating mean temperatures. Would a media fixated on expanding climate change alarmism investigate and report this phenomenon to demonstrate that the planet was actually warmer than people think?

“60 Minutes,” “20/20,” and “Dateline” would have all done rather lengthy exposés into the matter, correct?

Well, a former meteorologist for the CBS-TV affiliate KHSL in Redding, California, by the name of Anthony Watts has examined 48 of the 1221 weather stations in the 48 lower states, and found irregularities that could be skewing the data upward.

Watts reported his first startling finding on this subject at his “Watts Up With That?” website on May 9, 2007 (emphasis added throughout):

To get an idea of the measurement environment that exists today at stations used to gather climate data, I visited the Chico State University Fram on Hegan Lane, south of the city, to do a site survey in the format done by Dr. Roger Pielke of Colorado State University. This station is part of the US Historical Climate Network of weather stations that have been used as the source for surface temperature data in many climate models and studies. There were some interesting discoveries.

[…]

1. There are missing louvers on the north side of the [Cotton Region Shelter] containing the automated data logger and temp/dp sensor

2. There is clear evidence that both shelters have been repainted with latex paint, including brush marks and drip marks.

3. There is an asphalt road that curves around the site, from the southwest to the southeast

4. The surface at the site is mixture of gravel, soil, and debris. There is no grass.

5. There is a water filled evapo-transpiration pan within 10 feet of each CRS, its lineage seems to indicate it goes back to the establishment of the site in 1963

6. The fiberglass composite NEMA electronics enclosure containing the data logger, radio modem, and solar battery charger are placed inside the CRS within 6-8 inches of the temperature/dp sensor. The 12 volt gel cel battery is also inside the CRS. These items may introduce a heat bias from the operating electronics.

Watts was kind enough to include pictures of the site surveyed.

Since this point, Watts has visited many other weather stations (please visit www.surfacestations.org for all of his observations) with findings such as the following in Marysville, California:

Today I visited Marysville’s Fire Station, just off Hwy 70 at 9th and B Street, where they have the station of record for the city using the MMTS electronic sensor installed by the National Weather Service. The data from this station is part of the USHCN (US Historical Climatological Network) and is used in the computer modeling used to predict climate change.

The Marysville station is located behind the fire department building on a patio and is probably the worst site visited so far. In addition to the sensor being surrounded by asphalt and concrete, its also within 10 feet of buildings, and within 8 feet of a large metal cell tower that could be felt reflecting sunlight/heat. And worst of all, air conditioning units on the cell tower electronics buildings vent warm air within 10 feet of the sensor. Oh and lets not forget the portable BBQ the firefighters use a “couple times a week.” The area has been constantly added to, what was once a grass rear yard was turned to a parking lot, then more buildings added, then a cell tower with one, then two electronics buildings and the air conditioners…no report on how long the firefighters were BBQ’ing back there, when they figured out why I was asking all the questions they clammed up.

I can tell you with certainty, the temperature data from this station is useless.

To give you an idea of just how useless, take a look at the picture of this weather station:

Here are the mean temperature recorded by the Marysville station since the early 1900s:

Yet, as Watts pointed out, there’s another station 50 miles away in Orland, California, which is not surrounded by buildings, air conditioners, asphalt, a parking lot, or a cell tower. Take a look at a picture of how a weather station should be set up, and the insert of mean temperatures reported from said station which are quite different than from the Marysville station just 50 miles away:

As Watts correctly pointed out, “Its [sic] obvious that Marysville is measuring UHI (Urban Heat Island) effects.”

What this means is that the Marysville station is defeating the purpose of placing a temperature recorder outside of a major metropolitan area by creating an environment that looks nothing like a rural one. As a result, it is quite likely that the temperature readings at Marysville are being upwardly skewed by the environs.

As you might imagine, these are but two examples of sites visited by Watts, and the reader is encouraged to go here and here for more of his research.

Yet, the bigger question is why haven’t journalists looked into this matter? Isn’t this considered newsworthy?

Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review certainly believes so given his Sunday article on this subject (emphasis added):

To assure accuracy, stations (essentially older thermometers in little four-legged wooden sheds or digital thermometers mounted on poles) should be 100 feet from buildings, not placed on hot concrete, etc. But as photos on Watts’ site show, the station in Forest Grove, Ore., stands 10 feet from an air-conditioning exhaust vent. In Roseburg, Ore., it’s on a rooftop near an AC unit. In Tahoe, Calif., it’s next to a drum where trash is burned.

Watts, who says he’s a man of facts and science, isn’t jumping to any rash conclusions based on the 40-some weather stations his volunteers have checked so far. But he said Tuesday that what he’s finding raises doubts about NOAA’s past and current temperature reports.

I believe we will be able to demonstrate that some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment.”

Any questions as to why major media outlets are not at all concerned with the accuracy of America’s weather stations?

NEW UPDATE (6/19/07) COURTESY OF NEWSBUSTERS

Chris Horner Identifies More Weather Station Problems

Posted by Noel Sheppard on June 19, 2007 – 14:29.

On Monday, NewsBusters exposed some serious problems at a number of temperature data-collection facilities around the country.

On Tuesday, Christopher C. Horner, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of the New York Times bestseller “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism,” shared information with NewsBusters concerning two additional problematic weather stations:

Jim Manzi [of National Review’s Planet Gore] recently posted on the problems encountered when experts undertook even a cursory examination of the U.S.’s surface temperature measuring stations, which are the world’s most reliable…a sobering thought for reasons we all shall soon see.

Horner continued:

Consider the below exemplar of those wonders of science and technology in the field of obtaining surface temperature measurements, from Hopkinsville, KY, where the instrument: a) abuts a brick house: b) actually abuts the chimney of a brick house; c) hovers just above a black asphalt pad, and; d) what’s that directly underneath it, but a Weber grill!

Absolutely brilliant.

There is a large green garbage receptacle just off to the left, in the photo, which is where I suggest the instrument might better lie.

Next time you hear of a heat wave in Hopkinsville, KY, you might wander over to grab a burger. More likely than not the boys are just having a cookout.

This is not yet up on SurfaceStations, but based on other station photos which I’ve seen this isn’t all that aberrant, or rather is so only as a matter of degree

Horner wasn’t done, for the following picture is of a weather station somewhere in Colorado:

Horner pointed out:

Here, the weather station was placed 2 feet off of a building, but conveniently next to a large air conditioning unit. Any thoughts on the localized ambient temperature when that baby kicks on?

Horner concluded:

The folks at ClimateAudit have detected that our alarmist friends are aware, and already preparing for this story to get some legs. Our schools may be in pretty rough shape, but not that rough that this corruption of the surface data will go unnoticed.

Of course, the question still remains: When will the mainstream media investigate and report this, or will this issue continue to be one only examined in the blogosphere?

Stay tuned.

 

 

High price for load of hot air

 

June 18, 2007 12:00am

WITH understandable reluctance, Prime Minister John Howard recently donned the political hair-shirt of a carbon trading system.

On the same day, NASA chief Michael Griffin commented in a US radio interview that “I am not sure that it is fair to say that (global warming) is a problem that we must wrestle with”.

NASA is an agency that knows a thing or two about climate change. As Griffin added: “We study global climate change, that is in our authorisation, we think we do it rather well.

“I’m proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to, quote, battle climate change.”

Such a clear statement that science accomplishment should carry primacy over policy advice is both welcome and overdue.

Nonetheless, there is something worrying about one of Griffin’s other statements, which said that “I have no doubt . . . that a trend of global warming exists”.

Griffin seems to be referring to human-caused global warming, but irrespective of that his opinion is unsupported by the evidence.

The salient facts are these. First, the accepted global average temperature statistics used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998. Oddly, this eight-year-long temperature stasis has occurred despite an increase over the same period of 15 parts per million (or 4 per cent) in atmospheric CO2.

Second, lower atmosphere satellite-based temperature measurements, if corrected for non-greenhouse influences such as El Nino events and large volcanic eruptions, show little if any global warming since 1979, a period over which atmospheric CO2 has increased by 55 ppm (17 per cent).

Third, there are strong indications from solar studies that Earth’s current temperature stasis will be followed by climatic cooling over the next few decades.

How then is it possible for Griffin to assert so boldly that human-caused global warming is happening?

Well, he is in good company for similar statements have been made recently by several Western heads of state at the G8 summit meeting. For instance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asserts climate change (i.e. global warming) “is also essentially caused by humankind”.

In fact, there is every doubt whether any global warming at all is occurring at the moment, let alone human-caused warming.

For leading politicians to be asserting to the contrary indicates something is very wrong with their chain of scientific advice, for they are clearly being deceived. That this should be the case is an international political scandal of high order which, in turn, raises the question of where their advice is coming from.

In Australia, the advice trail leads from government agencies such as the CSIRO and the Australian Greenhouse Office through to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations.

As leading economist David Henderson has pointed out, it is extremely dangerous for an unelected and unaccountable body like the IPCC to have a monopoly on climate policy advice to governments. And even more so because, at heart, the IPCC is a political and not a scientific agency.

Australia does not ask the World Bank to set its annual budget and neither should it allow the notoriously alarmist IPCC to set its climate policy.

It is past time for those who have deceived governments and misled the public regarding dangerous human-caused global warming to be called to account. Aided by hysterical posturing by green NGOs, their actions have led to the cornering of government on the issue and the likely implementation of futile emission policies that will impose direct extra costs on every household and enterprise in Australia to no identifiable benefit.

Not only do humans not dominate Earth’s current temperature trend but the likelihood is that further large sums of public money are shortly going to be committed to, theoretically, combat warming when cooling is the more likely short-term climatic eventuality.

In one of the more expensive ironies of history, the expenditure of more than $US50 billion ($60 billion) on research into global warming since 1990 has failed to demonstrate any human-caused climate trend, let alone a dangerous one.

Yet that expenditure will pale into insignificance compared with the squandering of money that is going to accompany the introduction of a carbon trading or taxation system.

The costs of thus expiating comfortable middle class angst are, of course, going to be imposed preferentially upon the poor and underprivileged.

  • Professor Bob Carter is an environmental scientist at James Cook University who studies ancient climate change

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Slipping into the aftermath of the recent Iranian hostage crisis, the officials and citizenry of Britain, the soldiers who were held against their will and their families who likely slept little during the nearly 15 day ordeal, are understandably all breathing a collective sigh of relief as the former captives arrive home for tearful reunions and military debriefs (as well as the unsurprising truth that is currently coming to light.) While Prime Minister Tony Blair claims no deals were proffered in order to secure release for the British soldiers, and I tend to accept that as highly probable, we likely won’t know what exactly transpired behind the Persian curtain to enable this thankfully positive outcome. All we have is Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “Easter gift” explanation.

It’s darned nice of Ahmadinejad to offer Britain (and from his point of view, the Western world especially the United States) this “Easter gift” despite the explicit fact that he is the relative leader of an Islamic republic that rejects outright any notion of The New Testament, Jesus Christ, and the resurrection, let alone cute bunnies and colored eggs. By saying this, he only continues his mocking rhetoric, thumbing his nose not only at the west, but at Christianity as well. Ahmadinejad is not some student neo-hippy who took his first philosophy course and suddenly he converted to atheism because it’s the hip thing to do. This is the president of a country whose ruling hierarchy, most notably embodied in the elderly form of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is purely evil and presents the greatest danger to any stability in the Middle East and the world in general due to their extremist Islamic beliefs. Happy Easter indeed.

Despite Mahmoud’s generous and gracious holiday surprise (what a top notch humanitarian), there lingers the question as to why Iran felt the need to abduct the British soldiers in the first place and at that particular time. Was it a direct response to the detention of Iranians in Iraq by U.S. forces back in mid January? While a convenient excuse, that is probably not the case. Assuming the 15 British troops were indeed in Iraqi waters as is most likely the case, on the surface the abduction at best is a testing of the waters so to speak. At worst, it would appear to have been an act of war.

For the most part, the Iranian people are, to say the least, rather disdainful of their current governmental superiors and the path by which they have been led (no need to go into the epidemic of torture and filet-o-tongue style enforcement methods.) The administration of Iran, under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, et. al. have accomplished nothing for their country but increased international censure, diplomatic condemnation, United Nations economic sanctions, and all around general isolation from the world community at large all because they simply want to turn a little weapons grade uranium into a nuclear missile in order to nuke Israel. Sounds like a party to me.

So were the international pressures and economic sanctions actually doing any good? Most likely, as evidenced in the capture and two week internment of the British soldiers. Yet how are sanctions in anyway related to taking hostages? In my estimation, and in this case, they were closely related.

Early last Summer Iran, through its puppet organization Hezbollah, orchestrated and perpetrated a very similar stunt by kidnapping a few IDF soldiers, placing newly instituted Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert into the awkward position of fight or flight. Perceptibly, Ahmadinejad with the backing of the clerics, were testing the resolve of Olmert. Unfortunately, the ultimate failure in that 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict (also known as The July War) of Olmert not only strengthened the resolve of Hezbollah specifically and Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Middle East generally, but the failure of the Iranian pop-quiz demonstrated Israel’s faltering infallibility in the face of European and eventually American pressure to stand down–captured Israeli soldiers were not worth the added tumult a prolonged conflict would generate throughout the region. An “F” for Israel and a “D-” for Europe and the United States.

Nearly a year later, Iran once again evaluates the resolve of the West, this time kidnapping and holding hostage the 15 British military personnel. Whereas the first test was squarely directed at Olmert and Israel within the Middle East, this exam would scrutinize the will of Tony Blair and the people of England, our closest and most important ally. For thirteen days Blair did little to encourage his people that matters concerning the return of their hostages from Iran were being efficiently, effectively, and quickly dealt with, at least outwardly. Instead, what the world witnessed was a man flummoxed by the ongoing situation who, through his inability to act in any relevant and purposeful manner, managed to appear wholly capitulating to those who held illegally captive citizens of England. At the very least, Blair proved his worth as an eloquent press secretary by frequently appearing before news cameras, emitting streams of self-demoralizing sententious pronouncements that seemed to do nothing but embolden the Iranian captors on a daily basis. Is it any wonder then Blair appeared more than little confounded when the announcement came down of the soldiers’ release? An “F” for Britain and a “D-” for the West.

What do to these two kidnapping events teach Iran? At this point, it proves to Ahmadinejad that two of their biggest worries, Israel and England (Europe was lost years ago) have little to no will for a fight. While I do not necessarily condone war as was the case with Israel and Lebanon last Summer, neither do I completely rule out military action if diplomacy is obviously going the way of the Dodo.

At this point, Iran is basking in the warm glow of their prodigious accomplishments, at least from their perspective. Despite the fact that sanctions may in fact be working, as is evidently the case partly resulting from their desperate and despicable actions two weeks ago and the aforementioned prequel last Summer in Lebanon, Iran has been given a nuclear reprieve–more time to enrich additional uranium and further destabilize an already chaotic expanse in desperate need of sensible guidance all around.

Unfortunately the Middle East does not get sensible guidance. Instead, it gets Nancy Pelosi. Whether one believes she had the right to travel to such a volatile region in order to conduct international diplomacy with various heads of state including the above mentioned Ehud Olmert and current Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad (whose father, Hafez al-Assad grew to infamy for butchering upwards of 30,000 of his own people in the city of Hama back in 1982), there is no doubt that her presence did nothing but complicate the hostage situation in Iran, perhaps even legitimizing the acts committed by Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard because of her flagrant disregard of President Bush’s express wishes to stay away from the area entirely.

Whether she broke the law by making the trip in opposition to Bush is immaterial to this discussion. What she did accomplish was the creation of a wake of confusion with every step she took throughout the Middle East. How does one so dense manage to become one of the central leaders of the most powerful nation on the planet? Considering George W. Bush has managed two terms in office, it’s not difficult to understand the how and the why.

Make no mistake. Nancy Pelosi knows next to nothing concerning foreign policy, particularly in the turbulent Middle East. This is most clearly evidenced in her appointment of Representative Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. To see what I mean, go here. If she knew anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Hamas or Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamic Jihad, she would never have so egregiously misinterpreted and twisted a conversation she participated in with Ehud Olmert to mean that Israel was currently prepared to resume peace talks with Syria when in fact that was not and is not the case. Still, that’s what she told Assad (Olmert strongly censured and distanced himself from Pelosi’s comment to Assad, correcting Pelosi on her ridiculous faux paux), the leader of Syria, a country who’s administration is one of the central providers of weapons to Hezbollah, who supports training for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and who as an agent of Iran wishes and works towards the unilateral annihilation of Israel. By proxy, this is what Nancy Pelosi is working towards. By proxy, Iran and Syria are who Nancy Pelosi is working with. Shameful doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So why the irresponsible and simple-minded Pelosi makes nice with those who not only seek the destruction of Israel, but of the west and the United States as well, we can be sure that her actions and tactless comments with state supporters of terrorism will certainly embolden and legitimize the concepts of the Islamic state and sharia law, and all of the repressions and curtailed freedoms that come with them. What a nice “Easter gift.”

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Nancy Pelosi colludes with a terrorist tyrant


Posted: April 5, 2007
9:09 p.m. Eastern


Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Syria

It is frankly astounding to me that people aren’t making a bigger deal of the colossal impropriety of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s unauthorized trip to Syria. Where is the outrage?

I realize Democratic leaders and those they answer to have unmitigated contempt for President Bush. I realize they believe the public rewarded their hatred and their anti-war posturing in the November congressional elections.

But according to the latest news reports, President Bush is still in office. This means he is still commander in chief and primarily in charge of U.S. foreign policy.

Democrats have long been opposed to the administration’s stern policy toward terrorist-sponsoring states like Iran and Syria. They apparently believe their evil tyrants mean well, and if we will just open a dialogue with them, we can build a lasting peace. After all, the vaunted Iraq Surrender Group recommended that very thing.

read more…

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Terrorists endorse Pelosi’s ‘good policy of dialogue’
Militants call House speaker’s visit ‘brave’ and hope for talks with Iran


Posted: April 4, 2007
2:14 p.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

JERUSALEM – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit today to Syria – in which she called for dialogue with Damascus – was “brave” and “very appreciated” and could bring about “important changes” to America’s foreign policy, including talks with “Middle East resistance groups,” according to members of terror organizations here whose top leaders live in Syria.

One terror leader, Khaled Al-Batch, a militant and spokesman for Islamic Jihad, expressed hope Pelosi would continue winning elections, explaining the House speaker’s Damascus visit demonstrated she understands the Middle East.

Pelosi’s visit was opposed by President Bush, who called Syria a “state sponsor of terror.”

read more…

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PMO denies peace message to Assad

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a rare “clarification” Wednesday that, in gentle diplomatic terms, contradicted US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s statement in Damascus that she had brought a message from Israel about a willingness to engage in peace talks.

According to the statement, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emphasized in his meeting with Pelosi on Sunday that “although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the Axis of Evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East.”

Olmert, the statement clarified, told Pelosi that Syria’s sincerity about a genuine peace with Israel would be judged by its willingness to “cease its support of terror, cease its sponsoring of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, refrain from providing weapons to Hizbullah and bringing about the destabilizing of Lebanon, cease its support of terror in Iraq, and relinquish the strategic ties it is building with the extremist regime in Iran.”

The statement said Olmert had not communicated to Pelosi any change in Israeli policy on Damascus.

Pelosi, who met in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad over the objections of US President George W. Bush, said she brought a message to Assad from Olmert saying that Israel was ready for peace talks.

read more…

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The man within the red circle is believed to be Mahmoud Ahmedinejad during the Iran Hostage Crisis that began November 4, 1979.

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s insane dictator, has been hosting a “conference” that questions the validity of the Holocaust–according to him, it’s a myth. What saddens me is how many attendees are Jews from various countries, Europeans, and Americans.

At a speech he gave during the event today, Ahmadinejad once again threatened complete destruction upon Israel.

“Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out,” he said. I’m assuming he’s also indirectly including America as part of the “Zionist regime.”

Believe it when Ahmadinejad says he will destroy Israel, or at least work towards doing so. Iran is not developing its nuclear program for energy producing peaceful purposes. They are developing nuclear weapons, most notably demonstrated when Mahmoud held a highly publicized celebratory public event when the country finally was able to successfully enrich a touch of uranium. For all of his supposed bluster, he is deadly serious. He will do it.

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Iran president says Israel’s days are numbered

By Paul Hughes

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday told delegates at an international conference questioning the Holocaust that Israel’s days were numbered.

Ahmadinejad, who has sparked international outcry by referring to the killing of six million Jews in World War Two as a “myth” and calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, launched another verbal attack on the Jewish state.

“Thanks to people’s wishes and God’s will the trend for the existence of the Zionist regime is downwards and this is what God has promised and what all nations want,” he said.

“Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out,” he added.

His words received warm applause from delegates at the Holocaust conference, who included ultra-Orthodox anti-Israel Jews and European and American writers who argue the Holocaust was either fabricated or exaggerated.

The Vatican, Germany and the European Commission added their voices on Tuesday to others — such as the United States and Israel — who have condemned the Tehran meeting.

Iran says it organized the conference to shed light on the reasons behind the formation of the state of Israel after World War Two and to allow researchers from countries where it is a crime to question the Holocaust to speak freely.

“Iran is your home and is the home of all freedom seekers of the world,” Ahmadinejad said. “Here you can express your views and exchange opinions in a friendly, brotherly and free atmosphere.”

“FACT-FINDING” COMMITTEE FORMED

He urged countries where Holocaust denial is a crime, to respect freedom of speech and not to take action against any of the conference participants on their return.

Human rights groups frequently number Iran as one of the world’s worst violators of free speech, where scores of newspapers have been closed, journalists jailed, access to Web sites blocked and government critics hounded out of the country.

Delegates at the meeting earlier on Tuesday agreed to form a “fact-finding” committee to study the Holocaust.

The head of the new committee, identified as Iranian academic Mohammad Ali Ramin, said its members were “not racist or opposed to any particular group”.

“Rather they are just seeking the truth to set humanity truly free,” the ISNA students news agency quoted him as saying, without naming the committee members.

Robert Faurisson, a French scholar who has described the Holocaust as a “historical lie”, said the committee included members from the United States, France, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Iran, Bahrain and Syria, ISNA reported.

The Vatican called the Holocaust an “immense tragedy” which had to remain forever a warning for all people to respect the rights of others.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Tehran meeting “shows the danger of the situation Israel is in and in particular the threat that Israel lives under.”

She was speaking after meeting Ehud Olmert, who was on his first visit to Germany as Israeli Prime Minister.

Germany has made it a priority to support Israel since the Holocaust under the Nazis and the end of World War Two in 1945.

EU Commissioner Franco Frattini expressed “shock and indignation”, adding: “Anti-Semitism has no place in Europe; nor should it in any other part of the world.”


Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomes participants of a Holocaust conference in Tehran, December 12, 2006. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

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Part 9 • The Muj brothers

Jill’s two guards watch cartoons and the Koran channel. But tension grows as she becomes more desperate.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

(J.C.) Abu Qarrar was young, rotund, and seemed new to the mujahideen lifestyle. He hadn’t memorized much of the Koran, unlike his more senior counterparts. He sometimes sneaked glances at the women on the music-video channels when he thought no one was looking.

To show off, he would run in place, then kick his right leg in the air and fling his arms forward in an awkward demonstration of kung fu.

Abu Hassan was older, athletic, and seething with devotion to jihad. He seemed a veteran fighter – although, like Abu Qarrar, he loved the “Cat and Mouse” cartoons. Yes, they watched “Tom and Jerry.”

When he was bored – which was often – he’d use his cellphone to record himself giving fake fiery sermons standing at the top of the stairs as if on a mosque pulpit. Then he’d play them back, to hear how he’d sound if he were a famous imam.

These two men were my most constant guards. They reported to Abu Ahmed, one of Abu Nour‘s lieutenants. Abu Ahmed was an Islamic scholar who had just finished an Arabic translation of a Henry Kissinger biography and was reading ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.

The two guards weren’t at every house where I was held, and others came and went even when they were present. But during my captivity I spent more time with them than anyone else. They were my up-close-and-personal examples of the rank and file of the Iraqi mujahideen.

Abu Qarrar and Abu Hassan were also starkly different people, despite the fact that they called each other “brother.” In this, they were symbolic of the contrasts I saw in the larger group of mujahideen.

Some members were clever; others, not so much. Some seemed dangerous; most were devout. A few were sympathetic. A few were educated. At least one of the women appeared bitter about her lot in life.

As far as I knew, all were native Iraqis.

As the weeks of my captivity turned into months, Abu Qarrar and Abu Hassan became tense and unhappy. They were bored with guard duty and tired of inaction. They became more petty and controlling toward me.

Meanwhile, I was increasingly desperate, fearful, and angry. I felt I was beginning to lose my self-control.

The result was conflict between me and the Muj Brothers which, if not for the context, might have seemed adolescent. We couldn’t let little slights go. We were like animals in a cage, locked in all together.

• • •

(Photograph)
GLOBAL SUPPORT: In Rome, a poster of Jill was hung from city hall on Feb. 5.
Pier Paolo Cito/AP
Photos: Efforts to free Jill

(P.G.) The Feb. 26 deadline tied to the third video came and went. The kidnappers didn’t call. They didn’t write. They issued no new demands. But public interest in Jill Carroll’s plight didn’t flag. The Monitor’s Team Jill had adopted a strategy early on to take a low-key US media response. They followed the advice of experts who had analyzed The Wall Street Journal’s efforts to free Daniel Pearl after he was kidnapped in Pakistan: ignore the Western media, focus on Iraqi media. The kidnappers and ordinary Iraqis who might generate tips won’t be watching Larry King.

Still, Jill’s abduction struck a remarkable global chord. There was a series of “Free Jill” rallies in Paris. A giant poster of her was hung from the city hall in Rome. Students at the University of Massachusetts (where Jill went to school) and at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (where Jill grew up) held rallies and candlelight vigils. Thousands sent donations to a fund set up to support the family of Alan, Jill’s Iraqi interpreter. A jazz song was composed in her honor. Paintings and poems were sent to the Monitor offices. And prayers were said at hundreds of churches, mosques, and synagogues around the United States.

A 45-year-old man from Fremont, Calif., was one of half a dozen Americans who offered to take Jill’s place. “I would like to emphasize the fact that I am definitely not suicidal nor would I relish having my life cut short….

“I’m offering myself as a replacement for her as a hostage or even as a potential martyr for her outstanding work as a balanced and compassionate journalist,” he wrote.

(J.C.) Abu Qarrar claimed to have been part of the team that abducted me, but if he was, I didn’t see him. I do remember that he was the guard who sat outside the door of my bedroom on the first night I was held.

After all, he was hard to miss, with a girth that advertised his eating habits and a tattoo of Arabic writing on his inner left arm.

(Photograph) View our interactive map.

He told me he was 26. At the beginning of my ordeal he was unmarried. Later, he left for a period of time for an arranged wedding to a 13-year-old bride.

He didn’t know what e-mail was. He’d never seen a computer. He marveled at how a can opener worked. There were times when we got along well. But overall I thought he acted like a spoiled little boy who enjoyed his authority over another human being – namely, me.

I learned this early on. During the first full day of my captivity, he kept peeking in the door, presumably to make sure I wasn’t trying to escape. I’d heard that it was best for hostages to try to make captors see them as human beings, to elicit sympathy, so I tried talking to him. I asked him to help me with my Arabic.

I would point to things, and he would tell me their Arabic names. I was open, even friendly. That turned out to be a big mistake.

You can’t be that way with men in such a conservative culture. They often take it the wrong way. He began to get demanding, even assertive. At one point, the pin on my hijab came loose, and I started to pin it back up.

Abu Qarrar demanded, “No, open.”

I looked down and whispered, “No.”

He repeated, “Open!” He looked at me with wide eyes, very serious.

To Westerners this may sound like an innocuous exchange, but in the context of the conservative Middle East, this was a totally inappropriate advance. I needed to shut him down completely. I put my head down, held my hands in my lap, and didn’t move a muscle.

Finally he left and closed the door and locked it. He returned every hour or so, and I wouldn’t even look at him. I’d just sit there.

Abu Hassan I met later. He was older – about 32, I would guess – and married with children. Where Abu Qarrar was unathletic, Abu Hassan was trim and fit. He told me he’d been a gym teacher. For some reason I got the impression he’d been in Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican Guard.

At first I found him to be the more sympathetic of the Muj Brothers. His age made him seem more mature, or at least more responsible. Later I saw that by guarding me, he was being confined as well. Desperate as he was for action, he would get cabin fever in minutes. Then he’d pace, reciting the fatiha, the opening chapter of the Koran.

The relationship of the Muj Brothers to each other was not one of equals. At times, Abu Hassan treated Abu Qarrar as if he were an insurgent’s apprentice.

For instance, the older man taught the younger how to clear the chamber of his handgun and remove its clip. This was good for my safety, as Abu Qarrar would often point his handgun at me and pretend to shoot, for fun.

Abu Hassan used to go out at night sometimes to plant IEDs. Then in daylight he’d go out again, to detonate them. One day, when we were at the insurgent’s “clubhouse,” as I called it, he decided he would have to wait before leaving to set off his explosives. There were too many American soldiers in the vicinity, he said.

So Abu Qarrar decided he would act the part of the mujahideen hero. He grabbed a black-and-white checked kaffiyeh, the common Arabic head covering favored by insurgents, threw it over his shoulders in a dramatic swoop, and declared that he would set off to fight the Americans, no matter what.

Like a teacher facing a rebellious student, Abu Hassan grabbed Abu Qarrar by the shoulders and snatched away the kaffiyeh over Abu Qarrar’s loud objections. The younger man wasn’t going to be allowed to pick his own battles. And Abu Hassan recognized the kaffiyeh for what it was, a giant flashing sign to any US soldier that as much as said, “Shoot me! I’m a muj!”

(J.C.) As my time in captivity passed the two-month mark, my morale, already low, began to deteriorate sharply.

One of my biggest problems was that I had let myself have hope. Numerous times, the insurgent leader, the black-eyed Abu Nour, had said my release was only a matter of settling details. Inevitably, my mood would soar – and then the release wouldn’t happen, due to some unspecified “problem.” Then I’d feel worse than if I hadn’t been told anything at all.

Then there were the videos. They had been astounded when my first hostage video, in which I had been forced to plead for the release of women at Abu Ghraib, had coincided with the freeing of five female prisoners by the US. After that, they seemed to be almost in a frenzy to see what else they could get in exchange for me.

They kept wanting to film different videos with different demands aimed at different audiences. Sometimes I was pleading with the American people in general for help. Once I asked the King of Jordan to free Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, a woman who tried to blow up a Jordanian hotel Nov. 9, 2005. Her explosive vest failed to detonate and she was caught. Another time I begged for aid from the leader of the United Arab Emirates. Later, I made one denouncing him.

While only four of my videos ever reached the outside world, I made nearly a dozen, including retakes done when I didn’t cry enough to satisfy my mujahideen producers. And I dreaded making them, not so much because it’s scary to plead for your life in front of a camera, but because I recognized that each one was a guarantee I would remain in captivity for some time longer.

Of course, there was an even worse alternative – that the death threats and deadlines they mentioned would be real.

• • •

(P.G.) After the fury over the Feb. 22 Samarra bombing and the backlash over Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, it seemed wise to lower Jill’s media profile until emotions calmed somewhat. From about mid-February no public service ads were broadcast.

On March 7, the two-month mark of Jill’s abduction, the Monitor restarted the PSA campaign in Iraq. It distributed a video to Iraqi news outlets that included clips from an Al Sharqiya TV interview. The Baghdad-based network had interviewed an Iraqi family that Jill had written a story about in the spring of 2005. A toddler had been left paralyzed by a suicide bomber, and her family had been left homeless. Jill had profiled the family, and later brought money to them sent by readers.

The story illustrated her compassion for Iraqis. But it also highlighted how Jill’s personal and professional history made it easy to generate public support for her in the region.

On March 10, the US State Department announced that they had found the body of American Quaker activist Tom Fox. He had been taken hostage on Nov. 26, 2005, along with three other members of the Christian Peacemakers Team. To those working on Jill’s behalf, it was an emotional blow; a harsh reminder that hostages held long enough to become icons with their own TV news logos often get killed.

Would PSAs be enough to protect her?

(J.C.) Meanwhile, my relationship with my guards Abu Qarrar and Abu Hassan got worse as well. Frustration and boredom had slowly eroded their once permissive and friendly attitudes toward me.

Once they had pretended I was a guest. Now they made mean jokes and comments about me in Arabic, thinking I didn’t understand. They capriciously restricted my tiny freedoms, such as access to sun, fresh air, and even interior space for pacing.

Their logic was twisted. They were mad at me because they had to guard me, and wanted to punish me for it.

They picked at me in petty ways. One day we were having tea, and I took my glass and stirred it counterclockwise, as I always do.

“No, that’s wrong!” said Abu Qarrar, only half-joking. “Stir your tea clockwise!”

I was tired of that kind of behavior. When we later moved to Abu Ahmed‘s house west of Fallujah, I went over their heads, in essence, to gain more freedoms. I took advantage of the situation to escape the Muj Brothers and hang out with the woman of the house.

They couldn’t follow me. The woman’s husband was gone during the day, and it would have been unthinkably improper for unrelated men to be around her in any way.

So I had one of the best days I had in captivity. The woman and I chopped vegetables, cooked, washed dishes, swept the floor, made tea, and played games with her little girl. I sensed a flicker of sympathy when the woman complimented my potato peeling ability, and when she asked what people in America ate for breakfast, as we set out the morning meal.

If I pretended hard enough, I could almost fool myself into thinking I really was a guest, living with an average Iraqi family for a story about daily life.

(Photograph)
INSURGENT HOME: US officials say that this kitchen is in one of the homes where Carroll was held.
US Marine Corps/AP

But I wasn’t a guest. I was a prisoner. And my guards were determined to win our battle of wills.

A few days later we were back at the clubhouse, where there weren’t any women, and they were little kings. After we arrived, they just locked me in my room.

All my hard-won privileges were gone. They let me out to eat, but wouldn’t eat with me. In the Middle East, that’s a major insult. They wouldn’t speak, except for blunt orders.

After dinner, I was going back to my room when I turned and yelled, “This is injustice! This is thuloum!”

My strategy from the start had been to humanize myself. The only way to survive, I thought, was to get them to see me as a person, not a symbol or an object of hate. But by this point, I had put up with so much from so many people, I didn’t care. All the questions:

“Why aren’t you a Muslim?”

“Why don’t you love Zarqawi?”

“Why don’t you want to drive a car bomb?”

Plus the fact I’d been kidnapped and Alan murdered. It was all ridiculous.

They just locked me back in my room. And that night, as I lay there, I thought, “I can’t do this. I’m not going to win this. It’s stupid to try.”

The next morning, I didn’t knock on the door to come out. I waited for them to fetch me. When they did, I just kept my head down and walked to the bathroom. I was quiet and deferential – as I had been in my ordeal’s early days.

I had to keep my eye on the larger goal, which was survival. I had to give in.

The Muj Brothers had won the battle with me. That didn’t mean they had won a war. In the following days, Abu Hassan slept less and less. He’d pull out his handgun and play with it.

“The American soldiers, they will never leave Iraq,” he said one day. “It will be 300 years before they go away.”

It was the first time I had every heard any of the mujahideen express anything less than complete optimism about the future.

(Photograph)
TWIN SISTERS: Jill and Katie Carroll say that they didn’t get along as children (top photo, at age 5). But after they graduated from high school (bottom) that began to change.
Photos Courtesy of the Carroll Family

(P.G.) As March slipped away, to some involved in the long effort to free Jill, it was as if they were now coasting – like a car that was moving forward, but with the engine off.

So Team Jill did what they had agreed to do when things seemed too quiet. They’d kept one person in reserve, someone who might get lots of attention and elicit much emotion: Jill’s twin sister, Katie. It was time to put her on TV.

The funny thing – the ironic thing – is that Katie and Jill were twins who didn’t get along. Not when they were youngsters, anyway.

They fought and fought and fought all the way through high school. The points of contention between them were the usual sibling irritants, such as whose turn it was in the shower, and who’d been in whose room, and when, and for how long.

They were just different sorts of people, with different lives. Katie was a dancer and looked like a ballerina; Jill loved competitive swimming and had a muscular swimmer’s build.

But their relationship changed when they went away to college (Tufts University for Katie; the University of Massachusetts for Jill). They spent hours on the phone with each other, and suddenly the person who had been so irritating when they lived in the same house seemed like an invaluable support.

After graduation, both ended up working in the same area: foreign affairs. Katie joined an international development firm, based in Washington. Jill pursued her dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.

Katie appeared on Al Arabiya on March 29. She talked about how Jill’s kidnapping had affected her family and appealed for information that could lead to her release.

• • •

(J.C.) I got worse. I was losing it. I would curl up in the bed and cry so hard. But I couldn’t be loud, so I would cry into the bed, into the plush blanket.

Through all the weeks and months I hadn’t prayed. I thought it would be hypocritical. All of my extended family is Catholic, but I hadn’t been to church in a long time. I hadn’t grown up with much religion, in fact. But I needed to calm myself. I knew that my family and friends were doing all they could for me, but it just wasn’t enough anymore. They were out there, and I was here alone. OK, I thought, I’ll ask God for strength and patience.

“God, thank you for getting me through all these days so far,” I began. “Please just give me the strength to keep going.

“Stay with my family right now and sit with them and give them strength.

“I know I never used to come to You before and it’s bad of me to come to You now when I really need it.

“Please, just stay with me right now. Just stay with me right now and don’t leave me.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Part 8 • A new enemy

After the Feb. 22 shrine bombing in Samarra, killing Shiites became more important than killing Americans – or guarding Jill.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

(J.C.) Blind again under the black scarves – a now familiar routine after one and a half months in captivity – I was herded into a car, headed for yet another change of houses. I didn’t know who the two men in the front seat were until I heard a voice I barely recognized, due to the speaker’s exhaustion.

“Abu Rasha is very tired. It was a very busy day,” said Abu Nour’s No. 2, speaking in the third person, as night fell like its own black scarf on the world outside.

Abu Rasha was a large man, one of the organizers of my guards. His house in Baghdad – or what I took to be his house – was one of the first places I’d been taken after being kidnapped. I’d spent a lot of time in his presence. But I’d never encountered him in a state like this.

“Today was very, very bad,” he said. “All day, driving here, and driving there, with the PKC and the RPG,” he said, referring to Russian-made machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, which were among the insurgents’ most common weapons. It had been a day of hard fighting. But they hadn’t been confronting US or Iraqi soldiers. Today, they had had a different target: Shiites.

(Photograph)
SAMARRA: On February 22, 2006, a large explosion destroyed the golden dome shrine of Ali al-Hadi, one of Shiites’ holiest shrines.
GETTY

Two days earlier, on Feb. 22, an important Shiite mosque in Samarra, Iraq, had been blown up. Shiites had attacked Sunni mosques in retaliation – the result being a vicious cycle of attack-and-response that had altered the world of my Sunni Islamist kidnappers.

We arrived back at the place I called the “clubhouse,” near Abu Ghraib, later that night. Slumped in a plastic chair in a room lit by the stark half-light of a fluorescent camping lantern, another mujahid told me their new bottom line.

“Aisha,” he said, calling me by the Sunni nickname they’d given me, “now our No. 1 enemy are the Shias. Americans are No. 2.”

• • •

(P.G.) As editor of the Monitor, Richard Bergenheim was the person who spoke to contacts who required special handling. That meant, for instance, that if FBI Director Robert Mueller called, he answered. And Mr. Mueller did call, early on, to ask if the Monitor was getting the help it needed.

It also meant that as the Jill Carroll hostage crisis dragged on, Mr. Bergenheim found himself at the center of the strange case of Daphne Barak and Sheikh Sattam Hamid Farhan al-Gaood (also spelled Gaaod). The Monitor was simply pursuing every lead, but this would be quite a rabbit hole.

On her website, Daphne Barak describes herself as “one of the few leading A-list interviewers in the world.” An Israeli-American syndicated television journalist, her interviewees have included everyone from Hillary Clinton to members of pop star Michael Jackson’s family.

Mr. Gaood, to some US officials, isn’t so much a celebrity as he is notorious. “One of Saddam Hussein’s most trusted confidants in conducting clandestine business transactions,” according to the CIA’s 2004 report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The same report said Gaood was once the director of El Eman, the “largest network of Iraqi front companies” that smuggled oil out of Iraq and foodstuffs into Iraq in violation of the UN oil-for-food program, but “he has stated that he believed this to be legitimate business.”

Sometime in late January, a source at a US television network told the Monitor that Ms. Barak was trying to sell an interview she’d conducted with Gaood – and that Gaood had mentioned helping get Jill Carroll out.

So Bergenheim called Barak. The story was true – or, at least, the part about the interview was.

Gaood had said, in an offhand way, that kidnapping was wrong, and Jill should be released. Pressed, he’d said something to the effect of, yes, he could arrange her freedom, he’d even use his own money, if needed – but so far, no one had asked him to.

(J.C.) The wave of sectarian violence which overtook Iraq following the destruction of Samarra’s Askariya Shrine had a huge impact on the nature of my captivity.

That was because the level of activity of the mujahideen group which had seized me greatly increased. Many of its members were out fighting their new war almost every day.

At first, I thought this was a bad thing for me. It was destabilizing the status quo – and under the status quo, at least I was still alive.

I didn’t want to be killed just because I was now a burden. And I certainly didn’t want to be caught in the middle of a Sunni-Shiite firefight.

But after a while it became clear that this conflict, despite its horrible effect on Iraq itself, might be a good thing for me. Their main mission was now something to which my presence was, politically speaking, only tangential. And they began running out of places to put me, because suddenly, American and Iraqi troops were everywhere, trying to keep the peace.

From my first days in captivity I’d seen evidence that they weren’t just kidnappers but also insurgents actively conducting attacks. They didn’t much bother trying to hide their firearms and explosives.

For instance, one morning at the location I knew as the mujahideen clubhouse I awoke to find fresh dirt in the bathroom, dirt in the shower, and dirt in the washing machine. I didn’t think much of it. Maybe they were washing their shoes.

(Photograph)
JILLIAN TAMAKI

But I quickly learned that the appearance of dirt meant that someone in the house had been out planting bombs – IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, the mujahideen weapon of choice. I knew from my reporting, and the time I spent embedded with US Marines, that IEDs were now responsible for about half of all US combat deaths in Iraq.

Not all their explosives were offensive weapons. At least one of my guards – Abu Hassan, a serious man – wore a suicide vest inside the clubhouse.

One night, he was leaning over a little gas-powered stove, cooking eggs and potatoes in oil, and then he sat back and pushed the open flame away, saying something like, “Oh, have to be careful!”

The suicide vest was under his shirt, sort of swinging back and forth. He was afraid the fire would ignite the explosives. And if it did, we’d all be dead.

He used to complain about how heavy it was. He’d wear it at night. He would mime for me what would happen if soldiers came, showing how he’d put it on, with shoulder straps, and then how two wires would connect. Then he would move his hands outward in a big motion indicating an explosion, look upward, and go, “BOOM!”

(P.G.) The prospect of help from Sheikh Gaood raised hopes at the Monitor’s offices in Boston at a time when other tracks of investigation seemed to be drying up. But it quickly became a serious source of tension at the paper and among the US agencies who were supposedly cooperating to find Jill.

The Monitor’s Baghdad correspondents Scott Peterson and Dan Murphy didn’t trust Gaood’s motives. Was Gaood trying to win favor with the US government – as it investigated violations of the UN oil-for-food sanctions program? And the FBI wasn’t happy about it either. They wanted to keep Gaood out of the picture.

US and foreign intelligence sources, on the other hand, said that Gaood had indeed been a powerful figure under Saddam Hussein. And, the CIA’s report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction described Gaood as “linked” to an insurgent network near Fallujah that “actively sought chemical weapons for use against Coalition forces” in 2004. It was possible he had the contacts to release Jill, they said, but there were no guarantees.

Which government agency was right? How should the Monitor advise the Carroll family? And how much should the Monitor invest in pursuing this track?

According to intelligence sources, the CIA checked with the FBI, the lead agency in the Carroll case, before providing the Monitor with more background on Gaood. The FBI replied with a blistering e-mail: the CIA should stay in its own lane, and stop talking to the Monitor about the Carroll case. (Today, the FBI says no such message was sent. But Gaood “was assessed as a complete ‘X’ factor, which means undemonstrated credibility,” says FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.)

To try and settle this intergovernmental dispute, Bergenheim called Mr. Mueller, the head of the FBI. You asked if we were getting the help we needed, he said, in effect. Well, we aren’t.

(Photograph)
SATTAM AL-GAOOD: The former senior Iraqi Baath party official, shown here at his house in Amman, Jordan, Monday, Jan. 2, 2006, suggested that he could secure Jill’s release.
NADER DAOUD/AP

The FBI response? The Monitor was given two new, higher-level contacts within the bureau, but from then on the paper’s editor was given less information about the government’s efforts in the case.

Bergenheim decided to tell the Carroll family about the Barak/Gaood connection. Bad move, said the Baghdad Boys. But on Feb. 9, Jim and Mary Beth Carroll went on “Good Morning America” and asked for the help of the “powerful sheikh,” without naming him.

A few days later, Gaood issued a statement from his exile in Jordan, calling for Jill’s release to prove that the Iraqi insurgency “does not kill innocents.”

Nothing happened. And the days dragged on.

(J.C.) There was no mistaking that the mujahideen who held me hated America. “One day, hopefully, one day, America, all of America gone,” said one of my guards early in my captivity. He spread his hands out wide as if to wipe America off the map.

“I don’t quite understand,” I said. “All America?”

My female jailer Um Ali, listening in on the conversation, translated the sentiment into simpler Arabic for me. “No journalists, no people, no nothing,” she said.

I could also see that Shiites were high on their list of enemies. Once, when attempting to explain the historical split between Sunnis and Shiites, Abu Nour, the leader of my captors, stopped himself after he referred to “Shiite Muslims.”

“No, they are not Muslims,” Ink Eyes said. “Anyone who asks for things from people that are dead, and not [from] Allah, he is not a Muslim.”

He was referring to Shiites appealing to long-dead Islamic leaders to intercede with God, asking for miracles such as curing the sick. It’s a practice similar to that of Catholics praying to saints.

But after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya Shrine, and rampant Sunni-Shiite killing, nearly every captor I came into contact with would tell me about their hate for Shiites first. Abu Nour now simply referred to them as “dogs.”

• • •

(Photograph)

(P.G.) The Monitor and the family still talked almost every day, but they had less to say to each other. There were fewer leads and less information to share.

In Baghdad, a new case officer from the British security consultants had arrived and was proving difficult to work with. Correspondents Murphy and Peterson were irritated by prodding from Boston to rotate out for a rest.

Neither Peterson nor Murphy considered themselves particularly religious. But as Peterson notes, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” From the beginning, he drew strength from the book of Psalms, and this passage: “Truth brings the elements of liberty. The power of God brings deliverance to the captive,” written by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this paper.

Some nights, at the end of the last conference call with Boston, the pair would listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” performed by Jeff Buckley. It filled the apartment, and lifted their spirits, with a song that Murphy knew to be one of Jill’s favorites.

Eventually, reluctantly, Peterson took a two-week break with his family in Istanbul, Turkey.

In mid-February, Jim notified the Monitor that he had opened a new channel with someone claiming to be an intermediary for the kidnappers. Hopes rose again.

An Arabic interpreter was brought into his home. But under FBI advice, Jim refused to tell Team Jill in Boston or the Baghdad Boys any of the details. Even more frustrating to Murphy and Peterson, Jill’s father told them to shut down any other tracks they were pursuing, including talks with Jordanian officials who had just said they would try to help. The Monitor reporters didn’t want to be working at cross-purposes to Jim, so they reluctantly sat on their hands.

But after the bombing of the Askariya Shrine, fighting surged between Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents, prompting more curfews. Jim’s Iraqi contact stopped answering his phone. Days dragged into a week, two weeks.

Another dry hole.

Discouraged, Jim sent word that Murphy and Peterson could resume their efforts in Iraq. By now, Murphy needed a break and left for Cairo.

(J.C.) On the day in late February that an exhausted Abu Rasha had told me that Shiites were now the mujahideen’s top target, he’d told me something else, something chilling.

“We killed an Al Arabiya journalist,” he said, his face drawn, his eyes hard. “She said the mujahideen are bad.”

It was unclear if he meant that he himself had participated in the killing or if it had been done by men from the larger group of mujahideen.

They’d frequently assured me that I wasn’t going to be killed. But clearly there were times when their rules for jihad allowed them to kill women, and to kill women journalists.

As I learned after I was released, the well-known Al Arabiya newswoman Atwar Bahjat and two colleagues were abducted and killed by gunmen while they were interviewing Iraqis near the bombed Samarra shrine.

I bounced from house to house over the next few weeks – mostly between the clubhouse and a new house west of Fallujah – and the guards grew incredibly agitated. They would bitterly complain to me about being stuck with guard duty. Abu Hassan – the guard with the suicide vest – would sleep and eat little. He was always on edge. He would fiddle with his 9mm pistol obsessively and leap to his feet to peer out a window at the first sound of a helicopter or barking dog.

(Photograph)
ATWAR BAHJAT: Jill Carroll’s captors said they killed this TV journalist on Feb. 22.
AFP/GETTY IMAGES

He spent his time on the phone, checking in with others for the latest news on their campaign to kill Shiites. When anyone came to the house, he pumped them for stories about their “work,” as they all called it.

In his state of agitation and boredom, he began raising suspicions about the Shiite neighbors. They didn’t know I was there. They didn’t appear to know that the men at this house were mujahideen. They’d drop off fresh bread or yogurt, or stop to chat outside, just as Iraqis had done for generations.

They did not yet recognize that those days of amity were over.

 

 

 

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