Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Item: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate that there is no express granting of “habeas corpus” in the United States, only a prohibition against suspending it.  Amazed Senators Arlen Spector and Patrick Leahy corrected the Attorney General, telling him that he not only was misinterpreting the Constitution but violating common sense.  (See the video @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mdpCABIuVY .)

Comment: In technical terms, Gonzales has lost his mind.  But he’s doing a heckuva job.

Item: (AP) Attorneys for Johnny Jessop, 18, asked a state judge to order Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to tell Jessop how to find his 62-year-old mother, Elsie.  Jessop has not spoken to his mother in more than 18 months, attorney Roger Hoole said.

Jessop is among what may be dozens of so-called "Lost Boys" who say they were kicked out of the FLDS church in the past four years by Jeffs for being disobedient or because they were seen as competition to older men seeking young brides.

FLDS members consider themselves "fundamentalist Mormons," although the mainstream church disavows any connection.  They also consider Jeffs a prophet of God with dominion over their salvation.

Jeffs, 51, is in jail on two felony counts of rape as an accomplice for his suspected role in a 2001 marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her older cousin.  He has led the church since 2004, and dissidents describe him as a heartless ruler who has fractured dozens of families, sending fathers and husbands away and reassigning their wives and children to other men.

Jessop believes that Jeffs ordered his mother to cut ties with him and that the leader knows where Jessop can find his mother, Hoole said.

Comment: Now the FLDS are loyal to Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s vision of the religion, while the mainstream group has conveniently had “revelations” changing sexist or racist church policies at the most opportune moments.  Either way, you would think that someone would have many questions about the veracity, integrity and the honesty of the various forms of Mormonism.  Yet 72% of persons would say they would vote for a qualified Mormon for Public Office, and only 45% would vote for a qualified theist.  Go figure!

Item: (Time) On Aug. 31, 2005, a stampede among Shi'ite pilgrims on a bridge over the Tigris River in Baghdad led to hundreds jumping into the water in panic.  Several young men in Adhamiya, the Sunni neighborhood on the eastern bank, dived in to help.  One of them, Othman al-Obeidi, 25, rescued six people before his limbs gave out from exhaustion and he himself drowned.  Nearly 1,000 pilgrims died that afternoon, but community leaders in the Shi'ite district of Khadamiya, on the western bank, lauded the "martyrdom" of al-Obeidi and the bravery of his friends.

Eighteen months on, one of the men who jumped into the river to help the Shi'ites says al-Obeidi "wasted his life for those animals."  Hamza Muslawi refuses to talk about how many he himself saved, saying it fills him with shame.  "If I see a Shi'ite child about to drown in the Tigris now," says the carpenter, "I will not reach my hand out to save him."  In Khadamiya, too, the narrative about Aug. 31 has changed.  Karrar Hussein, 28, was crossing the bridge when the stampede began.  Ask him about al-Obeidi, and his cheerful demeanor quickly turns sour.  "That is a myth," hisses the cell-phone salesman.  "That person never existed at all.  He was invented by the Sunnis to make them look good."  Rather than jumping in to help, he claims, the people of Adhamiya laughed and cheered as Shi'ites drowned.

"The air has become poisoned [by sectarianism], and we have all been breathing it," says Abbas Fadhil, a Baghdad physician.  "And so now everybody is talking the same language, whether they are educated or illiterate, secular or religious, violent or not."

For those who follow Iraq from afar, the daily stories of sectarian slaughter are perplexing.  Why are the Shi'ites and Sunnis fighting?  Why now?

It is the product of centuries of social, political and economic inequality, imposed by repression and prejudice and frequently reinforced by bloodshed.  The hatred is not principally about religion. Sunnis and Shi'ites may disagree on some matters of dogma and some details of Islam's early history, but these differences are small--they agree on most of the important tenets of the faith, like the infallibility of the Koran, and they venerate the Prophet Muhammad.

"What binds them is not religion but common historical experience: Shi'ites see themselves as the oppressed, and they see Sunnis as the oppressors."

Comment: It is incredible that religion still receives a free pass when it is so obviously at the root of a particular problem.  Perhaps Iraqis would find some other way to identify each other, but the fact is they don’t: religion is the defining difference that determines whether you hate someone else or not, period.  And with that difference defined, it becomes moral to inflict nearly any moral atrocity on the other.

Why now?  Iraqis, like most other people, prefer privilege to justice; most religions and the various sects of Islam in particular preaches that non-believers are inferior or less moral, thereby justifying the fight for privilege.  With Saddam Hussein out of the picture, sectarian religious violence has overpowered any desire for freedom, justice and liberty.  This should not have come as a shock to anyone.

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