1) This weekend I'll be attending the World Tribunal
in Istanbul. Check out the schedule here:
www.worldtribunal.org . Featuring Arundhati Roy,
Dennis Halliday, and several others, it should be
quite an event:
"US Television Network to Provide Global Broadcast of
World Tribunal on Iraq. Marks Third Anniversary of
Invasion of Iraq. June 24-27, 2005 from Istanbul
Turkey," in Common Dreams Progressive Newswire,
online, June 20, 2005: "The final session of the WTI
in Istanbul is the culmination of two years of
rigorous investigation documenting violations of
international law and human rights by the United
States and its allies leading up to and during the
invasion of Iraq and in the continuing occupation."
"The expert opinion, witness testimony, video and
image evidence will address: ... The destruction of
Iraqi cultural institutions and the liability of the
invaders in international law for failing to protect
these treasures of humanity. WTI witnesses and jurors
will include: ... Iraqi museum founder and curator
Amal Al Khedairy; ... A complete listing of sessions
and speakers, along with additional background
information on The World Tribunal on Iraq can be found
2) The article is exceedingly mysterious. Did the
Iranians manage to shoot down a U-2 plane in their
airspace, requiring a rescue and recovery op from
CentCom's special forces detail? That would explain
the "South-West Asia" location, as well as the "host
nation sensitivities" (i.e. of UAE hosting a US
airbase with planes that are routinely violating
Iranian airspace for the purposes of spying and
espionage [like for an impending bunker buster nuclear
facility strike, which we're all awaiting this
summer], which could be interpreted as a causus belli
on Iran's part). All speculation, but when articles
like this surface, one is obliged to speculate:
U-2 spy plane crash kills pilot
Jamie Wilson in Washington
Thursday June 23, 2005
The pilot of a US air force U-2 spy plane was killed
in a crash while returning to base, the US military
The aircraft had been carrying out a mission in
support of operations in Afghanistan, a Pentagon
spokesman said. Officials refused to say where the
plane came down because of what were described as
"host nation sensitivities".
The cause of the crash is not known, but officials
said there were no indications of hostile fire.
A spokesman for US central command would only specify
"south-west Asia", which can be used as a substitute
for the Middle East. American U-2s operate from an
airbase in the United Arab Emirates, although US
military officials refuse to discuss this fact at the
UAE's request because it is sensitive about US forces
being deployed on its territory.
"The crash happened at approximately 11.30pm [GMT]
Tuesday," the spokesman said.
"The pilot has been confirmed dead. The cause of the
crash is unknown at this time. An investigation board
has been set up and will determine its cause." He said
the plane had completed a mission in support of
Operation Enduring Freedom, the title given to the war
in Afghanistan, when it crashed. "The site of the
crash has been secured to ensure the safety of local
citizens and the integrity of the site for
investigation team members," the spokesman added.
Once a closely held secret, the U-2, which operates at
an altitude of more than 70,000 feet (about 21,000
metres), beyond the range of most surface to air
missiles, has been in service for decades.
The most famous downing of a U-2 spy plane was on May
1 1960 over Soviet territory. The aircraft was
photographing Soviet missile installations, and after
parachuting to safety, the pilot, Gary Powers, was
captured and later convicted as a spy. He was held for
almost two years before being traded for a KGB man
held in the west.
Other U-2 spy planes were later shot down, including
one over Cuba during the missile crisis in 1962.
As of yesterday 194 US servicemen and women have been
killed in Operation Enduring Freedom.
2) Evangelicals in Iraq:
Evangelicals Building a Base in Iraq
Newcomers Raise Worry Among Traditional Church Leaders
By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 23, 2005; A01
BAGHDAD -- With arms outstretched, the congregation at
National Evangelical Baptist Church belted out a
praise hymn backed up by drums, electric guitar and
keyboard. In the corner, slide images of Jesus filled
a large screen. A simple white cross of wood adorned
the stage, and worshipers sprinkled the pastor's
Bible-based sermon with approving shouts of "Ameen!"
National is Iraq's first Baptist congregation and one
of at least seven new Christian evangelical churches
established in Baghdad in the past two years. Its
Sunday afternoon service, in a building behind a house
on a quiet street, draws a couple of hundred
worshipers who like the lively music and focus on the
"I'm thirsty for this kind of church," Suhaila Tawfik,
a veterinarian who was raised Catholic, said at a
recent service. "I want to go deep in understanding
Tawfik is not alone. The U.S.-led toppling of Saddam
Hussein, who limited the establishment of new
denominations, has altered the religious landscape of
predominantly Muslim Iraq. A newly energized Christian
evangelical activism here, supported by Western and
other foreign evangelicals, is now challenging the
dominance of Iraq's long-established Christian
denominations and drawing complaints from Muslim and
Christian religious leaders about a threat to the
The evangelicals' numbers are not large -- perhaps a
few thousand -- in the context of Iraq's estimated
800,000 Christians. But they are emerging at a time
when the country's traditional churches have lost
their privileged Hussein-era status and have
experienced massive depletions of their flocks because
of decades-long emigration. Now, traditional church
leaders see the new evangelical churches filling up,
not so much with Muslim converts but with Christians
like Tawfik seeking a new kind of worship experience.
"The way the preachers arrived here . . . with
soldiers . . . was not a good thing," said Baghdad's
Roman Catholic archbishop, Jean Sleiman. "I think they
had the intention that they could convert Muslims,
though Christians didn't do it here for 2,000 years."
"In the end," Sleiman said, "they are seducing
Christians from other churches."
Iraq's new churches are part of Christian
evangelicalism's growing presence in several Middle
Eastern countries, experts say. In neighboring Jordan,
for example, "the indigenous evangelical presence is
growing and thriving," said Todd M. Johnson, a scholar
of global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological
Seminary in Massachusetts.
Nabeeh Abbassi, president of the Jordan Baptist
Convention, said in an interview in Amman that there
are about 10,000 evangelicals worshiping at 50
churches in Jordan. They include 20 Baptist churches
with a combined regular Sunday attendance of 5,000, he
added. The organization also operates the Baptist
School of Amman, where 40 percent of the student body
While most evangelicals in Jordan come from
traditional Christian denominations, Abbassi said,
"we're seeing more and more Muslim conversions, not
less than 500 a year" over the past 10 years.
Iraq's Christian population has been organized for
centuries into denominations such as Chaldean
Catholicism and Roman Catholicism. While Hussein's
secular regime allowed freedom of worship, it limited
new denominations, particularly if backed by Western
During the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, American
evangelicals made no secret of their desire to follow
the troops. Samaritan's Purse, the global relief
organization led by the Rev. Franklin Graham -- who
has called Islam an "evil and wicked" religion -- and
the International Mission Board of the Southern
Baptist Convention, the country's largest Protestant
denomination, were among those that mobilized
missionaries and relief supplies.
Soon after Hussein's fall, they entered the country,
saying their prime task was to provide Iraqis with
humanitarian aid. But their strong emphasis on sharing
their faith raised concerns among Muslims and some
Christians that they would openly proselytize.
Then the security environment deteriorated in Iraq --
four Southern Baptist missionaries were killed,
Westerners were kidnapped and at least 21 churches
were bombed -- forcing most foreign evangelicals to
flee. But Iraqi evangelicals remain.
"For Christians, it's now democratic," said Nabil A.
Sara, 60, the pastor at National Evangelical Baptist.
"It's not like before. There is freedom now. Nobody
can say, 'Why do you start a new church?' "
Some church leaders, however, are asking that very
"Evangelicals come here and I would like to ask: Why
do you come here? For what reason?" said Patriarch
Emmanuel Delly, head of the Eastern rite Chaldean
Catholic Church, Iraq's largest Christian community.
In interviews, Delly and Sleiman were torn between
their belief in religious freedom and the threat they
see from the new evangelicalism. They also expressed
anger and resentment at what they perceive as the
evangelicals' assumption that members of old-line
denominations are not true Christians.
"If we are not Christians, you should tell us so we
will find the right path," Delly said sarcastically.
"I'm not against the evangelicals. If they go to an
atheist country to promote Christ, we would help them
Sleiman charged that the new churches were sowing "a
new division" among Christians because "churches here
mean a big community with tradition, language and
culture, not simply a building with some people
worshiping. If you want to help Christians here, help
through the churches [already] here."
Still, the Roman Catholic prelate said he could not
oppose the evangelicals because "we ask for freedom of
conscience." He also said he respected how they appear
"ready to die" for their beliefs. "Sometimes I'm
telling myself they are more zealous than me, and we
can profit from this positive dimension of their
Some Iraqi Christians expressed fear that the
evangelicals would undermine Christian-Muslim harmony
here, which rests on a long-standing, tacit agreement
not to proselytize each other. "There is an informal
agreement that says we have nothing to do with your
religion and faith," said Yonadam Kanna, one of six
Christians elected to Iraq's parliament. "We are
brothers but we don't interfere in your religion."
Delly said that "even if a Muslim comes to me and
said, 'I want to be Christian,' I would not accept. I
would tell him to go back and try to be a good Muslim
and God will accept you." Trying to convert Muslims to
Christianity, he added, "is not acceptable."
Sheik Fatih Kashif Ghitaa, a prominent Shiite Muslim
leader in Baghdad, was among those who expressed alarm
at the postwar influx of foreign missionaries. In a
recent interview, he said he feared that Muslims
misunderstand why many Christians talk about their
"They have to talk about Jesus and what Jesus has
done. This is one of the principles of believing in
Christianity," said Ghitaa. "But the problem is that
the others don't understand it, they think these
people are coming to convert them."
Robert Fetherlin, vice president for international
ministries at Colorado-based Christian and Missionary
Alliance, which supports one of the new Baghdad
evangelical churches, defended his denomination's
"We're not trying to coerce people to follow Christ,"
he said. "But we want to at least communicate to
people who He is. We feel very encouraged by the
possibility for people in Iraq to have the freedom to
make choices about what belief system they want to buy
Sara said that if Muslims approach him with "questions
about Jesus and about the Bible," he responds. But the
white-haired pastor said there was plenty of
evangelizing to be done among Christians because, in
his view, many do not really know Jesus. "They know
[Him] just in name," he said, adding that they need a
better understanding of "why He died for them."
His church appeals to dissatisfied Christians, he
said, adding, "If you go to a Catholic church, for
example, there is no Bible in the church, there is no
preaching, and just a little singing."
National congregant Zeena Woodman, 30, who was raised
in the Syrian Orthodox Church, agreed. "Praising Jesus
Christ in this church is not as traditional as other
churches," she said. "It's much more interesting
Sara, a former Presbyterian who started an underground
evangelical church in his home after having a
born-again experience, began working openly during the
U.S. occupation. In January 2004, he was ordained
pastor of his church in a ceremony attended by more
than 20 Baptist pastors and deacons from Iraq, Jordan,
Lebanon and the United States. Baptist communities in
these countries financially support National
Evangelical, Sara said.
The church's name and a white cross are visible from
the street. The pastor said that no one has threatened
the church and that it has good relations with its
In fact, said Sara, "Muslims across the street came
and asked us to pray for their mother."
Special correspondent Bassam Sebti contributed to this
4) Blumenthal op-ed. Note that Bush's approval
ratings are now down to 39%, which is lower than
Clinton ever reached. If he hits the 20's, they say
that's when it gets hard to govern:
Blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel
The American public is increasingly disillusioned by
the Iraq war, and Bush's triumphalism only makes
Thursday June 23, 2005
On June 21, network news reported that the Pentagon
had claimed that 47 enemy operatives had been killed
in Operation Spear in western Iraq. Last month, the
Pentagon declared 125 had been killed in Operation
Matador, near the Syrian border. "We don't do body
counts on other people," Donald Rumsfeld, the
secretary of defence, stated in November 2003.
On January 29 this year, the day before the Iraqi
election, President Bush announced that it was the
"turning point". On May 2 2003, he stood on the deck
of the USS Abraham Lincoln behind a banner saying
"Mission Accomplished" and the next day proclaimed
that the "mission is completed". On June 2 this year,
he declared: "Our mission is clear there, as well, and
that is to train the Iraqis so they can do the
Last week, Bush retreated to his ultimate
justification, that Iraq was invaded because Saddam
Hussein was involved with the terrorists behind the
September 11 attacks, a notion believed by a majority
of those who voted for him in 2004: "We went to war
because we were attacked ..."
On March 16 2003, Dick Cheney, the vice-president,
prophesied: "We will, in fact, be greeted as
liberators ... I think it will go relatively quickly."
Only last month Cheney assured us that the insurgency
in Iraq is in "the last throes". On June 18, General
William Webster, the US commander in Baghdad, said:
"Certainly saying anything about 'breaking the back'
or 'about to reach the end of the line' or those kinds
of things do not apply to the insurgency at this
The war has reached a tipping point - not in Iraq, but
in the US. Every announcement of a "turning point"
heightens the rising tide of public disillusionment.
Every reference to September 11 strains the
administration's credibility. Every revelation of how
"the intelligence and facts were being fixed around
the policy" for war, as in the Downing Street memo,
shatters even Republicans' previously implacable
On June 21, a Gallup poll reported that Bush's
approval rating was collapsing along with support for
the war. Only 39% of Americans support it. "The
decline in support for the war is found among
Republicans and independents, with little change among
Democrats." (Since March, Republican support has
fallen 11 points to 70%.).......
5) CSM on DSM:
Downing Street Memos: What the 'Downing Street'
memos show, according to a Christian Science Monitor
Interpretations vary, but British documents provide
rare insight into the lead-up to war.
6) GRADUATE SCHOOL BARBIE (humor):
This year's new toy: GRADUATE SCHOOL BARBIE (TM)
Graduate School Barbie comes in two forms: 1)
Delusional Master's Barbie (tm) and 2) Ph.D. Masochist
Every Graduate School Barbie comes with these
fun-filled features guaranteed to delight and
entertain for hours:
Grad School Barbie comes out of the box with a big
grin on her face that turns into a frown after 2 weeks
or her first advisor meeting (whichever comes first).
And adorable black circles under her delightfully
She comes with two outfits: a grubby pair of blue
jeans and 5 year-old Old Navy T-shirt, and a floppy
pair of gray sweatpants with a matching "Go Screw
Grad School Barbie talks! Just press the button on her
left hand and hear her say such upbeat grad school
phrases like, "Yes, Professor, it'll be done by
tomorrow," "I'd love to write it all over again," and
"Why didn't I just get a job, I could have been making
$50,000 a year by now if I had just started working
with a Bachelor's. But noooooo...I had to further my
degree. I wish somebody would drop a bomb on the
school so that I'd have an excuse to stop working on
my degree that's sucking every last drop of life force
out of my withered and degraded excuse for a soul..."
(9 V lithium batteries sold separately).
Grad School Barbie is anatomically correct to teach
kids about the exciting changes that come with
pursuing a higher education. Removable panels on
Barbie's head and torso allow you to watch as her
cerebellum fries to a crispy brown, her heart races
150 beats per minute, and her stomach lining gradually
dissolve into nothing. Deluxe Barbie comes with
specially designed eye ducts. Just add a little water,
and watch Grad School Barbie burst into tears at
random intervals. Fun for the whole family!
Other accessories include: Grad School Barbie's Fun
Fridge (tm) Well stocked with microwave popcorn,
Coca-Cola, Healthy Choice Bologna (99% fat free!), and
small bottle of Mattel Brand Rum (tm). Grad School
Barbie's Medicine Cabinet comes in fabulous pink and
contains Barbie sized bottles of Advil, St. Johns
Wort, Zantac, and your choice of three fun
anti-anxiety drugs! (Barbie Medicine Cabinet not
available without a prescription). Grad School
Barbie's Computer Workstation comes with miniature
obsolete PC (pink of course), rickety desk, and over a
dozen miniature Mountain Dew cans to decorate your
workstation with (Mountain Dew deposit not included in
price, tech support sold separately)
And Grad School Barbie is not alone! Order now and
you'll get two of Barbie's great friends! GRADUATE
ADVISOR KEN: Barbie's mentor and advisor in her quest
for increased education and decreased self-esteem.
Grad Advisor Ken (tm) comes with a supply of red pens
and a permanent frown. Press the button to hear Grad
Advisor Ken deliver such wisdom to Barbie as "I need
an update on your progress," "I don't think you'll be
ready to graduate yet," and "This is nowhere near
ready for publication." Buy 3 or more dolls, and you
can have Barbie's Thesis Committee! (Palm Pilot and
tenure sold separately.)
REAL JOB SKIPPER: When Barbie needs to talk, she knows
that she can always count on her good friend Real Job
Skipper (tm), who got a job after getting her bachelor
degree. Press the button to hear Real Job Skipper
say, "Sometimes I wish I went for a graduate degree,"
and "Work is so hard, I had to work a half an hour of
overtime!" Real Job Skipper's Work Wardrobe and
Savings account sold separately. WARNING: Do not place
Grad Student Barbie and Real Job Skipper too close to
each other, as there have been several mysterious
cases of children leaving the room and coming back to
find Barbie's hands mysteriously fused to Skipper's
7) German opinions on Bush: