2005 Archive of Blog posts
Letters from Young Iraqi Students
History shows that change in a political process is championed through the efforts of the country's young adults. But little is being reported from the minds of Iraq's young adult population. The school partners program is fortunate to be close to the thoughts and dreams of many of Iraq's young population. Here are some excerpts of letters sent to American students from two teenage Iraqi boys- Unedited: Dear guys Sa'ad is my name. I'm from Basra in Iraq; do you have any ideas about my country? I now it's so famous on the news; but it's not always truth. In the school we always talk about the situation in Iraq and we ask our self's what the people say about Iraq when they see the T.V news? But remember guys not every thing on T.V is truth. I'm looking forward to get your latter. Hi Internet operator is my dream in this life; I had spent long hours facing the computer screen. It's so wonderful that time when you make friends on the chat or other ways on the network, Oh. I start talking before introduce my self, I'm Fawaz. I'm Iraqi from the best city in Iraq, I'm from Basra. We are from mate and how old are you? And do you have any great website you can teal me about? Catch you soon gentlemen.
"Darrin is our Hero"
"Darrin is our hero" was the voice I heard coming from the other side of the receiver in Basrah, Iraq. Darrin Husmann, a systems analyst in Oklahoma, has returned after a tour of duty around Tikrit, Iraq to continue his efforts in helping the Iraqi people reach a better life. The first shipment of computers destined for schools in the area has been received in Basrah through Darrin's selfless efforts. Upon hearing this news, Darrin replied by sending 3 more computers and 5 more monitors this week! The access of information and the dialogue that will result through this generous offer of computers will help cement a stronger future for a democratic, free Iraq. It is the instilment of democratic values in the younger generation that will ensure that our troops come home and a successful outcome in Iraq will go down in the annals of history. "Darrin is our hero" was the voice I heard coming from the other side of the receiver. Darrin Husmann, a systems analyst in Oklahoma, has returned after a tour of duty around Tikrit, Iraq to continue his efforts in helping the Iraqi people reach a better life. The first shipment of computers destined for schools in the area has been received in Basrah. Upon hearing this news, Darrin replied by sending 3 more computers and 5 more monitors this week! The access of information and the dialogue that will result through this generous offer of computers will help cement a stronger future for a democratic, free Iraq.
Operation Cinderella-"Mission Accomplished"
A group of oprhans in Fallujah, Iraq proudly display their new sandals
By way of "Operation Cinderella", Spirit of America helped patrons of Charlotte Wood Middle School in Danville, CA ship a donation of sandals just in time to protect small feet during the hot summer months.
Lt. Chris Lankford, a US Navy Seabee stationed in Iraq, writes this message detailing the quest to distribute the sandals to Iraqi children:
"Recently, my Seabees and I distributed some of these sandals while in the city of Fallujah, Iraq. Two of the pictures are of a small kid we found walking without shoes through his rubble strewn neighborhood. In the picture he is wearing a new pair of Adidas sandals we provided.
The other pictures were taken at a primary school. The headmaster lined up the orphans first, followed by many other young kids, and allowed us to give them all sandals.
It was a great day, we all made a difference, and I'm proud to report Mission Accomplished.
Looking for a Partner School in the U.S. for 2005-2006 School Year
Koya, Northern Iraq has been added as one of the locations for the School Partners program. Koya is the home town for Iraq's newly elected President Mr. Jalal Talabani. Koya, located in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been known over the centuries as the cradle of numerous social, religious, scientific and political leaders. With peace and prosperity to soon be realized in Koya, in addition to its strategic location, its economic potential and educated population, it stands to serve as a focal future centre of education and training. Koya Secondary School is one of many schools in the district that would like to partner with a school in the U.S. for 2005-2006 school year. If you would like to learn more about Koya and Iraqi Kurdistan, please join the School Partners program. Click here.
Palisades Elementary- California Donates Books
Children and parents from Palisades Elementary school in California got together and raised $500 toward providing the initial cost of starting a library at an elementary school in Basrah. Realizing that education and knowledge is the best long term counter to terrorism, Palisades Elementary has provided the initial funds for the Sana'a Elementary School's first library. The books purchased include first and second grade English books, animal encyclopedia books and a full knowledge encyclopedia. The school located in Basrah, Iraq is very excited and thankful for this wonderful, long-lasting gift. Each book was stamped with the greetings A Gift of Friendship from the American People. This good will gift will be available for children in that district for years to come. If you would like to join this program, Click here.
Chalk up another, final, victory for the Cedar Revolution.
The Lebanese government formally announced the election will be held on time - on May 29th 2005.
The million-person demonstration, the two-month sleep-in at the tent-city, the countdown campaign, the village campaign, the media pressure, the international pressure - it all came together. It's a new era in Lebanon now. The time of post-war occupation and oppression is over. The Cedar Revolution is now over, too. It wasn't easy living in a tent-city in downtown Beirut.
700 people were there for more than 60 days, eating outside, sleeping outside, and using outhouses set up next to a pricy Virgin Megastore. They all agreed on the basics: Lebanon should be free of Syrian occupation, free elections should be held on time, and a national Lebanese identity must be forged to counter the tribal hatefest of the past.
They don't agree about anything else whatsoever. Some are left-wing. Some are right-wing. Some fixate on their own narrow particular interests. Some have national and even global concerns. They argued about this stuff constantly. That's fine because that's democracy. But they're cranky. They're exhausted. And now they're finished.
I've been impressed with the way such an extremely diverse group of people have been mixing it up. Militia guys ate breakfast with art school students in the next tent - and they affectionately bonded with each other. That's not something you're ever likely to see in America. But the camp was getting tense at the end. Fights began to break out as the perfect storm that brought them together began to blow over.
The Syrian military has now withdrawn to their side of the border. The secret police are almost certainly still around, but they're a lot less scary when they can't back up their agenda by force of arms. Syrian intelligence agents can still operate as terrorists and spies, but without an army they can't control what happens on the ground. The pall of fear over Lebanon has largely been broken. The democracy activists feel the difference. I feel it, too. I wouldn't quite call this a free country yet - not while Hezbollahland still exists as its own entity - but it feels like one now. The air is different. It's lighter.
Forging a new national identity will take a long time - if it ever truly happens at all. Lebanon will never have a true melting pot culture like the United States. This is an ancient land. Every last inch of it has been fought over and fiercely defended for centuries. Different parts of the country feel like separate micro-civilizations. But the people here have some things in common with each other that they don't have in common with anyone else. Lebanese Christians can understand and relate to Lebanese Muslims in ways that they never will be able to relate to, say, Christians from Kansas.
When I first arrived in Lebanon all the tent-city activists I spoke to said they thought the chances that the election would be held on time were near zero. They were wrong. Barring any last-minute shenanigans, the election will in fact be held on time.
So the tent-city movment is finished. Their objectives have been achieved. It is time to take down the camp.
Art school students from Alba University, Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts, are making a model of the tent-city so everyone will remember what Martyrs' Square briefly looked like. (Notice the Roman archeological site at one end of it.) The camp still stands as I write this. But tomorrow - with sadness, joy, and relief - it will be dismantled. They won and now they can go home.
Spirit of America Field Rep.
Mothers of the Disappeared
Syria abducted Lord-only-knows how many citizens off the streets of Beirut and out of the green valleys of Lebanon and carted them off to dungeons in the desert across the border. The Lebanese government, good slave that it is, has not whispered a word about this.
Yesterday the mothers of the Lebanese disappeared went down to parliament and demanded the release of their children. A large group of people from the Martyrs' Square tent-city joined them. A list of their demands was printed on a single piece of paper which they wanted to deliver in person.
The ministers of parliament left the building and completely ignored the demonstrators. They got in their cars with their drivers and bodyguards and tried to drive away.
The demonstrators blocked the road. All they wanted was to deliver a piece of paper in person to their own government.
MP Adnan Araqgi's driver nearly ran over a demonstrator named George Badra. Badra jumped out of the way and hit the car with a Lebanese flag.
Then hell broke loose.
Araqgi's bodyguard leapt out of the car and pointed a pistol at Badra. Seized by the briefest flicker of reasonableness, he fired shots into the air instead of into Badra. Then he pistol-whipped Badra on the back of his head. Badra fell unconcsious to the ground. Blood pooled on the pavement.
Demonstrators charged Araqgi's bodyguard and a full-blown clash exploded in the streets between the demonstrators, the military, and riot police. Citizens were beaten in the streets with clubs and the butts of Kalashnikovs. The fight lasted twenty minutes.
(Photo courtesy of the Daily Star.)
One of the tent-city residents, who prefers to remain anonymous, saw what had happened and walked up to one of the military officers at the scene. "You should be ashamed of yourselves," he told me he said to the officer's face. "You have blood on your hands in the service of a foreign country."
The officer looked at his feet. "You are right," he reportedly said. "You are right."
At night back at the tent-city I talked to one of the injured demonstrators - Hady Souid - right after he was released from the hospital. He was in pain, but also in good spirits. He shrugged off the fight, laughed at his injuries, then said "ouch" as he sat in a chair at one of the tent-city's computers.
Tough people here in Lebanon. They grew up with bigger problems than these and are not easily cowed.
Spirit of America Field Rep.