Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘washington dc’ Category

soup_nazi1

I have to say, in my 40 years on this planet I have never seen a more openly transparent and agreeable administration, determined to unite both sides of the political aisle and bond together every view across the ideological spectrum in an amalgam of peace, love, and hope and change.  Am I right?

What?  Oh… um… never mind.

“The White House has told Congress it will reject calls for many of President Obama’s policy czars to testify before Congress – a decision senators said goes against the president’s promises of transparency and openness and treads on Congress’ constitutional mandate to investigate the administration’s actions.”

What I mean to say is, in my 40 years on this planet I have never seen a more secretive and petty administration, determined to divide both sides of the political aisle and rend asunder every view across the ideological spectrum in an amalgam of disharmony, scorn, and hope and change (couldn’t really alter the last part as ‘hope n’ change’ has really become synonymous with insignificance.)

Now let’s take a look at this graphic from the Washington Post a little over a month ago…

GR2009091600074

Before anyone gets bent out of shape screaming, “Well, the evil Bush had over 40 czars, blar, blar, blar, Bush evil, blar, blar, blar,” take a close look at the above graphic.  Bush appointed 5 non-confirmed czar positions in his 8 years (which I still think should’ve been senate confirmed even if they didn’t enforce regulation, unlike the recently appointed Pay czar and Auto Recovery czar, each who did enforce regulation. And Van Jones, should he have floated under the radar, would’ve had tens of billions of dollars to spend while having no accountability to congress.) All the other czar positions during the Bush years were carry-overs from previous administrations.

Obama on the other hand has personally created 16 non-confirmed czars over the past sever or eight months who have no congressional accountability. They simply do what Obama wants. That’s a pretty significant disparity between Bush and Obama.  It does seems like an executive branch overreach and an apparent abuse of the checks and balances of our system.

Obama needs to stop being so secretive and divisive and start being what he promised: transparent and a reasonably cooperative uniter.

W.H. to Congress: Policy ‘czars’ won’t testify

Share

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The image “https://i1.wp.com/www.air-and-space.com/20040621%20Mojave/DSC_1339%20Gulfstream%20IV%20N5NG%20left%20side%20landing%20m.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

It’s been recently established that ex-VP and ecological warrior Al Gore uses over 20 times the amount of energy than the average American consumes, thereby illuminating a copious magnitude of hypocrisy on a man who had freshly been honored with the best documentary feature Academy Award for the runaway hit that is his global warming-cum-environmental treatise slash slideshow, An Inconvenient Truth.

Again, I’ve always been rather partial to Gore, and I really don’t mind inherent hypocrisy because honestly, as I expounded upon in this post, everyone is a hypocrite (myself included) and all hypocrisy is inherent. My central problem with Al Gore’s particular brand of hypocrisy is the fact that he’s fucking Al Gore: politician, celebrity, activist, and self-proclaimed internet architect. If he were just some guy spewing vomitous, mindless, unsolicited, insipid, and uninformed opinions in a blog on the internet that is rarely read by anyone (hmm… sounds sort of familiar), then his hypocrisies wouldn’t even register as a blip on my radar. But because he’s Al Gore (and not just any run-of-the-mill Al Gore mind you, but prognosticator and grand soothsayer to the follies of mankind in regards to global warming) we as the people of the world, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, expect the mighty almost-president to damn well practice what he damn well preaches. If he doesn’t commit to his publicly broadcast enviro-ideals, then I simply expect him to shut-up about this particular issue.

That’s not too difficult to ask, is it? It’s not like I’m pushing Mr. Gore to go live in a cave. Far from it. I would never expect that. I’m simply suggesting that as a result of his hypocrisy, he’s irreversibly cast-adrift some serious respect many have held for him, including myself, and he earnestly needs to sit down and think about how he can live his life by the code he’s urging everyone else on the planet to adopt. I would suggest looking towards Ed Begley Jr. as a good role model, and I’m being completely serious here. If you want to live your life as environmentally politically sound as possible, then you can’t do better celebrity-wise than Mr. Begley Jr. Here’s a man who would rather drive cross-country in his electric vehicle (which he does quite often) than pollute the atmosphere with copious amounts of jet plane causing carbon dioxide.

And speaking of jet planes, it appears we have a new enviro-hypocrite in the political/public arena. My own California Senator Dianne Feinstein apparently uses her wealthy husbands’ private jet to ferry her back and forth across the country–from Sacramento, California to the nation’s capital in Washington D.C. According to the L.A. Times article below…

A single cross-country round trip on a Gulfstream IV, or GIV, the model owned by Feinstein’s husband, churns out about 83,000 to 90,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, experts say. By contrast, on a per capita basis, the average American produces 50,000 pounds from all activities in an entire year.

That’s almost twice as much carbon dioxide produced in just one cross-country trip. It would take me almost two years to produce as much CO2 that Feinstein craps out in one trip to the D.C. and back. So assuming she were to fly hither and thither say, around 100 times a year, which would not be out of the realm of possibility for someone like Feinstein who works in the nations capital but calls California her home, our senator would excrete close to 9 million pounds of CO2 in only one year. Ack! How can my poor, defenseless atmosphere stave off such a fiendish attack?

Of course the article also lists California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger as another particularly vocal enviro-hypocrite–the attitudinizer (yes, it’s an actual word) so to speak. But now a new, previously unheard of, pseudo-phrase has been thrown into the mix, created I’m assuming to excuse those who evangelize eco-friendliness while engaging in behavior that is unequivocally eco-hostile, such as Schwarzenegger’s exhortations of energy conservation despite his unbridled love affair with the Hummer–a decidedly mother nature-terminating, gas guzzling behemoth. What is this new phrase? Carbon offsets.

So what are carbon offsets? According to the always reliable Wikipedia

A carbon offset is a service that tries to reduce the net carbon emissions of individuals or organizations indirectly, through proxies who reduce their emissions and/or increase their absorption of greenhouse gases. A wide variety of offset actions are available; tree planting is the most common.

Proper to the LA Times article, apparently Feinstein has already been purchasing carbon offsets for a while now, while Schwarzenegger is intending to buy into this scheme imminently. And though it appears purchasing carbon offsets is a relatively inexpensive proposal, allowing the buyer a certain sense of inflated ego and magnanimity, the results are a bit questionable. I don’t mean to imply that planting trees offers no real benefit to the environment, but to offset the damage caused by brutal enviro-terrorists like Feinstein, Schwarzenegger, and Gore proves a daunting task indeed.

In order to right the damage done by only one Feinstein trip to Washington D.C., one would have to plant 1,800 trees. So what if the carbon offset organizations simply don’t have enough time or man-power to plant 1,800 trees in one go? Well, one could simply plant a much more manageable number–say 90 trees–but those trees would have to be managed for 20 years before they offered a return on only one Feinstein jet trip. Assuming Feinstein probably makes around 100 Gulfstream IV private trips back and forth, a carbon offset team would be required to plant 180,000 trees per year in order to battle the gross injustice Feinstein commits against the environment.

So are these carbon offset companies actually planting 1,800 trees per every flight Senator Feinstein embarks upon? I somehow doubt it, and this seems nothing more than a deflection scheme designed to allow the powerful and wealthy to continue their environmentally damaging behavior while they persist in preaching and condescending to the rest of us how to live our lives ecologically sound while admonishing us when we stray from their politically correct, beneficent path.

Refraining from what one preaches is harder to cover up than it seems.

The image “https://i2.wp.com/www.dreamgarden.com/graphics/gang-art.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Politicians’ flights called wasteful

Schwarzenegger and Feinstein preach energy efficiency but often fly fuel-gulping small jets.

By Paul Pringle, Times Staff Writer
February 28, 2007

Sen. Dianne Feinstein offers plenty of tips on how California households can combat global warming, such as carpooling and running only a full dishwasher.

But one bit of information Feinstein declines to share is the number of times that she flew last year on her husband’s Gulfstream jet, which burns much more fuel per passenger-mile than commercial airliners.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also has asked constituents to do their part to conserve energy — including cutting summertime power consumption — even though he takes to the skies on leased executive jets.

Aides say there is nothing contradictory between the pro-green pronouncements and the flying habits of the Democratic senator and Republican governor.

Some environmentalists aren’t so sure.

“There appears to be a discrepancy between calling on people to make personal reductions and using a private jet that exacerbates the problem,” Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell said.

Flying on a Gulfstream rather than an airliner is like driving a sport utility vehicle instead of riding a bus, O’Donnell and others say.

A single cross-country round trip on a Gulfstream IV, or GIV, the model owned by Feinstein’s husband, churns out about 83,000 to 90,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, experts say. By contrast, on a per capita basis, the average American produces 50,000 pounds from all activities in an entire year.

Nonetheless, Feinstein and Schwarzenegger intend to continue their noncommercial flying ways because their jobs demand a flexibility the airlines can’t match, spokesmen say.

Schwarzenegger’s office said he and a jet-leasing company are establishing a “carbon offset” program for the governor and fellow customers, retroactive to Jan. 1. Carbon offsets are bought from organizations that plant trees and support renewable energy enterprises, among other measures, to offset greenhouse gases produced by the buyers.

“This is big news,” Schwarzenegger spokesman Bill Maile said of the governor’s undertaking with NetJets, the leasing firm.

Feinstein, however, got the jump on Schwarzenegger. She began buying carbon offsets last year to partially cover the travel on the GIV, and will purchase enough offsets this year to compensate for all the trips, spokesman Scott Gerber said.

He added that Feinstein took “numerous” commercial flights in 2006, but flew mostly on the GIV. He balked at disclosing the tally of her Gulfstream journeys.

“We’re not going to get into specifics,” he said.

Noncommercial aircraft and other carbon-related indulgences have caused politicians considerable turbulence recently.

A conservative group has condemned Al Gore for racking up an average monthly electricity bill of $1,200 at his Nashville mansion last year while championing the anti-global warming cause. A Gore spokeswoman said the former vice president invests in renewable energy to offset his electricity use.

As part of an ethics push, the House and Senate are toughening restrictions on lawmakers who fly private jets, though exceptions for members and spouses who own planes are under consideration.

Earlier this month, Republicans accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of requesting a large military jet to fly her and family members between the capital and her San Francisco district.

Security protocols grant Pelosi occasional military flights because she is second in line to the presidency. Her office said she had only inquired about an aircraft with enough fuel capacity to make the trip nonstop, and would fly commercial if necessary.

Pelosi flew on private jets seven times in 2006, her spokesman said. “She made every effort to travel commercially whenever possible,” Drew Hammill said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer says she took four trips on private aircraft last year, one with multiple stops over 2 1/2 days.

“If you can take a commercial plane to get where you need to go at the time you need to be there, you should do it,” she said in an e-mail. “If not, you have to look at alternatives such as trains, fuel-efficient vehicles, buses, and in some cases, private planes.”

For that last option, Feinstein reimburses her husband, Richard Blum, for use of the jet, Gerber said. Blum bought the GIV for about $23 million in 1999. The reimbursements are based on a first-class commercial fare, with more than 90% of the money coming from Feinstein’s personal funds and the rest from campaign coffers, the spokesman said. Last year, the reimbursements to Blum totaled about $73,000, he said.

But a GIV’s operating expenses are much higher than a first-class booking. A round-trip Los Angeles-Washington flight on the Gulfstream burns about 4,500 to 5,000 gallons of fuel at a cost of roughly $20,000, depending on local pump prices, said Jeff Beck, a veteran corporate pilot. And that doesn’t include pilot fees, maintenance and parking bills.

“It’s the least environmental thing that politicians can do,” Beck said. He said Gulfstreams devour so much fossil fuel per passenger that “it’s like they’re throwing dinosaur bones out of the tailpipe.”

A coast-to-coast, first-class ticket on a major airline goes for about $1,200 to $2,500, round trip, according to a sampling of three airlines’ prices Tuesday.

A Boeing 767-200 airliner burns about 1,550 gallons an hour — three times as much as a GIV. But the larger plane typically can seat about 180 passengers, as opposed to a GIV’s 12 to 14.

Eric Carlson, executive director of Carbonfund.org, a nonprofit that sells offsets, said it would charge $229 to cover the emissions from the GIV round trip.

Schwarzenegger flies a variety of leased jets, which cost his campaign $733,000 during the three months ending last September. Maile said the governor digs into his own pockets for some flights.

He also said Schwarzenegger has converted one of his Hummers to biodiesel fuel, and plans to install solar panels on his house. His other three Hummers remain gas hogs.

For her part, Feinstein drives a hybrid Lexus sport utility vehicle when she is home in San Francisco, Gerber said. But she drives a Lincoln Town Car in Washington.

Not that the eco-crowd is eager to criticize Feinstein and Schwarzenegger, who are generally viewed as key supporters of the growing movement to curb emissions.

Representatives of some environmental groups either would not comment on the two politicians’ penchant for private jets, or suggested that allowances could be made in their circumstances.

“Given the exigencies of the campaign trail, if not the demands of governing of a large state, it may not be realistic to expect elective officials to fly commercial all the time,” said Jon Coifman, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But O’Donnell, of Clean Air Watch, invoked a loftier ideal:

“It is fair to hope that our political leaders will lead by example.”

The image “https://i1.wp.com/www.nndb.com/people/535/000023466/feinstein-official7-med.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Read Full Post »

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Part 6 • Reciting Koranic verses

Jill agrees to study Islam, but realizes it’s a mistake. She hatches a plan to escape.

| Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

(J.C.) Um Ali – the wife of Abu Ali, my stubble-bearded captor – was my constant companion during the first three weeks of captivity. She was about 25, very pretty with big eyes. Wherever I was moved, she came, too, along with some of her children. At first, I thought she might be an ally or at least sympathetic. She wasn’t.

One night – one of the first nights in a new house in Abu Ghraib – Um Ali and I had lain down on the thin mattresses that served as beds by night and seats by day. I had just taken off my head scarf when suddenly a guard rattled the key violently in the lock and burst into the room, flipping on the light.

(Illustration)

ILLUSTRATION BY JILLIAN TAMAKI

In a frenzy, using very basic English, he ordered me up. I leapt up, my hands shaking so much I couldn’t get my head scarf repinned.

The guard started wrapping a red-and-white-checked kaffiyeh around my mouth and head, violently and tightly. I opened my eyes wide in terror, silently pleading for help to Um Ali, who was standing next to me.

Her gaze returned no sympathy. The guard whispered orders to her in Arabic that I couldn’t understand.

“Hurry, hurry, quickly, quickly,” the guard hissed angrily in Arabic.

The kaffiyeh was wrapped so hard that the dry fabric was cutting into my mouth.

“They’re going to haul me out and shoot me in the head,” I thought in panic.

He was so angry. His hatred was obvious from the violence with which he wrapped the kaffiyeh around my head. He didn’t know me, but I was an American, a symbol.

Um Ali had my glasses. As they moved me to a chair in the hall, I heard a “click, click.” Terrified, I thought it was a gun being cocked.

“If an American soldier comes here you don’t speak,” he said.

That was the reason for the frenzy! He thought there were soldiers nearby. He then demanded that I recite the Koran.

“I just have to live through this. I just have to live through this,” I thought, sitting, head bowed, blind, and breathing with difficulty. I was terrified.

After about 20 minutes it appeared no soldiers were coming. He led me back into the room and barked a command to sleep.

There were no whispered words of comfort or explanation from Um Ali.

In my early days of captivity, at one of the first houses I’d been held, an elderly woman who’d been visiting looked sadly at me and told me that inshallah – “God willing” – I would go home soon.

Then the visitor turned to Um Ali and sighed that my captivity was thuloum, or an injustice.

“This is not thuloum,” Um Ali snapped back.

My female companion/jailer/suicide-bomber-wannabe grew more irritated and despondent as the days wore on. Um Ali was stuck with me in a dim little room.

Then one evening she bounded in with a grin. She was delighted by the news reports that thousands of homes in California had been destroyed by forest fires.

“This is justice” wrought by God, she said, “because the soldiers destroy our houses.”

Part of Um Ali’s growing hardness toward me came as I tried to let her know that, despite the many hours of reciting the Koran with her, I didn’t plan to convert to Islam.

In the beginning I was an eager student, as I saw how much it pleased them whenever I showed an interest in learning. But I soon realized I had made a dangerous mistake.

(Photograph)
ISLAMIC TEXTS: At one point Jill Carroll’s captors thought her conversion to Islam might progress more rapidly if they gave her a Koran translated into English. But they could only find one in French.
ROBERT HARBISON – CSM/FILE

The more I let my captors teach me, the more they expected me to convert. After a few weeks, the question was always, “Why haven’t you come to Islam yet?”

I tried to put the brakes on delicately, afraid of what they might do if they thought I was rejecting Islam. How could I tell them that adopting a new religion and code for living wasn’t possible when I was held captive, racked with despair, and in fear daily for my life?

One afternoon, when I was exhausted from listening to Um Ali repeat verses of the Koran over and over so I could memorize them, I said, “I don’t understand the Arabic in the Koran, and so I can’t understand what it really means.”

“We’ll bring you an English Koran,” said Abu Ali, who had overheard me. “You want this?”

They were always insisting that they didn’t want to pressure me into converting, while at the same time asking me why I hadn’t converted yet.

“Oh, sure,” I said.

Abu Ali whipped out his cellphone, and made a call. “You have a Koran in English?” he said. “Quickly, quickly, bring it.”

He sounded almost frantic as he gave the person on the other end of the line directions about where to meet him.

After about 20 minutes he returned, bearing a small, green Koran. Emblazoned in gold on the cover was “Le Qur’an.” It was a French translation – not an English one.

Later, I tried telling Um Ali, gently, that I probably wasn’t going to convert after all.

She said she would be angry if I didn’t convert, given the time she had spent teaching me.

“We are afraid for you and don’t want you to go to hell,” she said. “We are afraid that we’ll see you [on Judgment Day] and you’ll say, ‘Why didn’t you save me?’ “

(P.G.) In the early days, Mary Beth Carroll did Sudoku puzzles or read cards sent by well-wishers before she went to bed. A week and a half after the abduction, Jill’s mother decided to attend a Sunday Mass at which Alan Enwiya was going to be memorialized. She had been invited to a Chicago-area Assyrian Christian church by some of his relatives. It turned out to be a cathartic trip.

Mary Beth and her companions arrived at the church on time – but it was almost empty. As the Mass began, it filled up, pew by pew. By the end of the emotional three-hour service it was jammed with parishioners who prayed for Alan and prayed for Jill, as Mary Beth sobbed into her handkerchief. She knew Jill would want her to be there. It made her feel closer to her absent daughter. And it was the first time she’d cried since the whole ordeal began.

The strain was also evident at the Monitor.

While the public support was heartening, Jill’s emergence as an iconic figure – a smart, pretty, and idealistic American caught in the maelstrom of Iraq – heightened the pressure in Boston and Baghdad. After all, terrorists behead Western icons.

While the stress was nothing like what the Carrolls faced, Team Jill and the Baghdad Boys (staff writers Scott Peterson and Dan Murphy) felt compelled to exhaustively pursue every lead, no matter how thin. And it was taking a toll. At one point, a worried British security adviser told editors in Boston that Murphy and Peterson “go to bed at 3 a.m. every night, after plotting the next day’s strategy, and wake up expecting this will be the day Jill is found. That’s unrealistic, and they can’t keep this up.”

Through most of the time Jill was in captivity, a single 8-by-11-inch color photo of her in a hijab hung near the door of the building that houses the Monitor’s Washington bureau. It had been placed there as a backdrop to a press conference by David Cook, D.C. bureau chief and the paper’s public face through the crisis.

The avuncular Mr. Cook has three sons not much younger than Jill. He passed that photo, as it grew more dog-eared and tattered, every day.

“You’d come in the door and see her picture and think, ‘Have I done everything I could today to help get her out?’ “

• • •

(J.C.) I thought about escape from the beginning and made several elaborate plans. At one of the first places I was held, there was a small window in the bathroom, about six feet up. If I reached up, I could peek out, just a little bit.

I looked out two or three times. Each time, I would do it a little bit longer. I saw a field of tall grass that stretched for about half a kilometer. Behind that was a row of tall palm trees running roughly east, toward Abu Ghraib. I’d overhead them talking about the prison. And the prison meant a bazillion US marines.

But I’d been too brazen. After several days, a guard came in after breakfast and said, “A man told me yesterday you were looking out the bathroom window.

“You know, I have a very dark place under the ground. It’s cold, with a very small door,” he said, repeating a warning I’d been given my first night in captivity. “There’s no light. I have this place.”

They hammered a tarp across both the bathroom and bedroom windows. The loss of sunlight was devastating. It may not seem like much, but it was hugely demoralizing.

They watched me all the time. Even when it seemed I was alone, there were men with guns just across the hall. I was moved often. I wasn’t sure which direction to run even if I got out. Escape looked impossible. All the things I had imagined about the future – marriage, children – they were just gone. They were just gone, and not going to happen.

(P.G.) Murphy and Peterson weren’t investigators in the law-enforcement sense. They never visited the scene of the kidnapping, as that Baghdad neighborhood was now too dangerous. (Neither did the FBI investigators, who were not allowed to leave the safety of the US-controlled Green Zone without an armed military escort.)

But for almost three months, the two reporters made finding Jill their primary job.

In a way, they became scholars of kidnapping. Dan created a database and drew diagrams of which groups had claimed responsibility for holding which hostages and when, to look for connections. They strategized with the British security firm, the Iraqi police, and the US Embassy’s Hostage Working Group in the Green Zone. They were told aspects of the FBI and US military efforts, but never given the full picture. So, they sifted through cases that might be analogous to Jill’s, to see who had been released and who hadn’t. They looked for things that people on the outside had done that might have helped.

In one instance, the friends of a kidnapped Australian put up posters in the neighborhood where the crime had occurred, pleading for his safety. Murphy and Peterson decided to take that idea and supersize it. They mapped out a three-stage media plan, starting with advertisements in newspapers, then moving to radio news and television public service announcements (PSAs).

Their theme was “Jill Carroll loves Iraq and loves Iraqis. She needs your help. Please help free Jill Carroll.”

Each step built on the previous one. The TV spots – produced with the invaluable help of CNN Baghdad staffers – used the voices of Iraqis themselves (“Oh, she was like a sister to me”) with pictures of Jill in her hijab, quotes from Mary Beth, and, in one, 30 seconds of the Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi calling for her release.

And Iraqi television news directors were generous with donated time.

The point was to get people who might know something to come forward with information. But the Monitor Baghdad Boys knew they were walking a thin line. They wanted to keep Jill in Iraqi minds, as a sympathetic character — making it harder for her captors to kill her. But they didn’t want to be too loud or make her too hot a property. That might raise any ransom demand through the roof. Or, worse, it might cause her kidnappers to believe that they needed to get rid of her, fast – and that death was their best option.

One day, Ink Eyes, my chief captor, arrived for a chat. He sat just outside the doorway, out of my field of vision. I leaned against the wall, knees up, head down. I was afraid to even move.

He started by telling me about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. He called Zarqawi his “good friend.”

“He’s such a good man…. If you met him, you would like him so much,” Abu Nour said warmly.

But Zarqawi wasn’t the head of the mujahideen any more, Abu Nour told me, he was simply one member of something new: the Mejlis Shura Mujahideen Fil Iraq.

Roughly translated, this was “Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq.”

The Americans were constantly saying that the mujahideen in Iraq were led by foreigners, he said. So, the Iraqi insurgents went to Zarqawi and insisted that an Iraqi be put in charge.

Zarqawi agreed, the story went. An Iraqi named Abdullah Rashid was the new head of the council.

“You don’t know who is Abdullah Rashid?” said Ink Eyes.

No, I indicated, I didn’t.

“I am Abdullah Rashid!” he said. (See related story.)

I sat there in absolute panic. I couldn’t even move. This man was telling me he was friends with Zarqawi – someone who personally beheaded hostages! And this guy was Zarqawi’s boss? What did this mean?

But as I saw in coming weeks, Zarqawi remained the insurgents’ hero, and the most influential member of their council, whatever Nour/Rashid’s position. And it seemed to me, based on snatches of conversations, that two cell leaders under him – Abu Rasha and Abu Ahmed – might also be on the council.

At various times, I heard my captors discussing changes in their plans because of directives from the council and Zarqawi, including one in Arabic I only partially understood: something about how my case should be resolved “without money and without killing.”

But that night – with the nature of those who held me spelled out for the first time – I lay on my bed motionless in the dark.

“Come, come pray,” I heard Ink Eyes, aka Abu Nour, aka Abdullah Rashid, say in the next room.

Someone else recited the call to prayer. They must all be in there, gathered together.

“Allahu Akbar,” the mujahideen said.

I couldn’t see them, but I knew the identical motions every Sunni Muslim in the world performs in prayer. Now they were standing shoulder to shoulder, hands raised near their faces, palms out.

The wall was like paper. Only a tissue seemed to stand between their devotions to God and me.

“Allahu Akbar,” they said, sighing and quietly grunting as they kneeled on the ground.

“Allahu Akbar,” they repeated, as they rose from prostration. “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar,” they said, with every movement.

I listened, afraid to breathe. I had to cough, but I suppressed it. I thought, “If I cough during their prayer, maybe they’ll kill me.”

I lay on my back, hands clasped across my stomach. Eventually I dozed off.

Next morning, I woke up in the same position.

That’s the way I woke up every morning in that house – frozen in the position I’d assumed after crawling into bed. I was too afraid to move, even in my sleep.

How to help
(Photograph)
HOWARD LAFRANCHI/THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Alan Enwiya is one of nearly 100 journalists and media assistants killed in Iraq since March 2003. Alan (left side of photo) is survived by his wife, Fairuz, his two children, Martin and Mary Ann, and his parents. They have left Iraq and hope to move to the US where they have relatives.

Jill Carroll’s driver, Adnan Abbas, is a witness to Alan’s murder. He, his wife, and their four children (including a newborn) have also fled Iraq for their own safety.

In response to readers, the Monitor has established funds to help each family start a new life. Donations may be sent to:

The Alan Enwiya Fund
c/o The Christian Science Monitor
One Norway Street
Boston, MA 02115

The Adnan Abbas Fund
c/o The Christian Science Monitor
One Norway Street
Boston, MA 02115

Donations can also be made online.

Read Full Post »