1) Lest we forget. The following is a compilation of
statements made by Bush Administration officials
concerning Iraqi WMD's in the leadup to the invasion
of March 2003:
The Bush Administration on Iraq's Weapons of Mass
August 2002-November 2003
Prepared by Christina Andersson
We have compiled statements from the Bush
Administration primarily on Iraq's previous and
current ability to manufacture and hide chemical,
biological, and nuclear weapons as well as delivery
systems. We have also included statements on the
relationship between intelligence and post-war
evidence of such capabilities. Statements in bold are
2) New Yorker profile of Iyad Allawi:
A MAN OF THE SHADOWS
by JON LEE ANDERSON
Can Iyad Allawi hold Iraq together?
Issue of 2005-01-24 and 31
A few days before the New Year, on a crisp, sunny day
in the Jordanian capital of Amman, I had tea with Iyad
Allawi, the interim Prime Minister of Iraq, on the
terrace of an unremarkable limestone villa that serves
as the local headquarters for his political
organization, the Iraqi National Accord, or the I.N.A.
Several Jordanian and Iraqi security men lurked on the
edges of the terrace, furtively smoking cigarettes.
Only Allawi’s American bodyguard, a man wearing the
dark suit and dark glasses of an archetypal Secret
Service agent, hovered close by. All the windows of an
apartment complex overlooking the terrace were
3) Ca. 10-15% Iraqi Expat Voter Participation:
Poll fails to enthuse expat Iraqis
Sunday 23 January 2005, 8:49 Makka Time, 5:49 GMT
Officials hope the extra days will see more Iraqis
The deadline for expatriate Iraqis to register for
voting in the 30 January elections has been extended
by two days due to low registration figures.
The extensions was made on Saturday after only about
one in eight of those eligible to vote signed up
during the initial phase.
By Friday, the fifth day of registration, 131,635 of
an estimated one million eligible voters in 14
countries had registered, the Geneva-based
International Organisation for Migration's Iraq's Out
of Country Programme said.
4) Apparently Baghdadis have been liberated from their
water supply this week:
... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where
hearts can heal and souls can mend...
Saturday, January 22, 2005
It's the third day of Eid. Eid is the Islamic holiday
and usually it’s a time for families to get together,
eat, drink and celebrate. Not this Eid. This Eid is
unbearable. We managed a feeble gathering on the first
day and no one was in a celebratory mood. There have
been several explosions- some far and some near but
even those aren't as worrisome as the tension that
seems to be growing on a daily basis.
There hasn’t been a drop of water in the faucets for
six days. six days. Even at the beginning of the
occupation, when the water would disappear in the
summer, there was always a trickle that would come
from one of the pipes in the garden. Now, even that is
gone. We’ve been purchasing bottles of water (the
price has gone up) to use for cooking and drinking.
Forget about cleaning. It’s really frustrating because
everyone cleans house during Eid. It’s like a part of
the tradition. The days leading up to Eid are a frenzy
of mops, brooms, dusting rags and disinfectant. The
cleaning makes one feel like there's room for a fresh
start. It's almost as if the house and its inhabitants
are being reborn. Not this year. We’re managing just
enough water to rinse dishes with. To bathe, we have
to try to make-do with a few liters of water heated in
pots on kerosene heaters....
5) Ba'quba Amnesty Negotiations Gone Bad:
Suspected fighters vent frustrations
Wednesday 19 January 2005, 20:04 Makka Time, 17:04 GMT
Baquba residents were asked not to speak against
When dozens of suspected fighters showed up for a
so-called peace conference in Baquba on Tuesday, they
told the governor sponsoring it why they would not lay
down their weapons ahead of elections....
6) NYT Op-Ed Idea advocating Iraqi Referendum on US
Should We Stay or Should We Go?
By FREDRICK BARTON, BATHSHEBA CROCKER and CRAIG COHEN
Published: January 19, 2005
Washington — WITH Iraqi elections scheduled to take
place in two weeks, many Americans already have one
eye on the exit. The Bush administration insists that
American troops will stay until a free, stable and
peaceful Iraq is established, as Condoleezza Rice did
yesterday at her Senate confirmation hearings. But it
seems likely that momentum for a speedy withdrawal
will increase after the January elections no matter
the degree of stability in Iraq....
7) Ein Tamr Field Report on Falluja Refugees:
Ein Tamor (Spring of Dates) is a small picturesque
spot in the western Iraqi desert, 90 kilometers to
the west of the sacred Karbala. It is part of a
bigger oasis that contains the Razzazah Lake, many
smaller towns, date palm and fruit thick orchards
surrounding the lake, and a very important
historical fortress called Al-Ekheider Castle. In
the seventies, this area was developed as a resort;
a tourist complex was built in Ein Tamor.
The tourist complex was fifty small flats
surrounding the lake and the colorful natural
springs. After the 1991 war, and during the UN
economic sanctions against Iraq through the nineties
until 2003, this tourist area was neglected, like
many other similar places all over Iraq. During this
period, when tourism was not a priority in Iraq, the
complex was mainly visited by newly wed couples who
spent their honey moon there. In April 2003, after
the occupation of Iraq, the complex was looted and
damaged, nothing remained except the walls.
Now it is a refugee camp for more than 50 Fallujan
families, who fled the bombing and killings last
October. It is like Habbaniya, another refugee camp,
which was a tourist complex 40 kilometers to the
north, near the Habbaniya Lake.
Obviously, Fallujans fled to these places because
there were walls and roofs which can be used as
better shelters than tents in the cold season. Ein
Tamor, once one of the most beautiful areas of Iraq
where picnics were made especially in winter, is now
one of the saddest places. To go there, one has to
go through the Triangle of death south of Baghdad,
where many attacks against the occupying troops take
Usually it takes an hour to go to Karbalaa. It took
us 3 hours, because of the check points, a bombed
car that was still on fire, and traffic jam due to
fuel (kilometers-long) queues. The roads are not the
same. I used to go there to visit my grand mother.
These are not the roads I used to go through; they
are not roads at all, nothing is straight, just
snake-like curves in the dusty wilderness.
Paradoxically, the way from Karbalaa to Ein Tamor
was calmer, better, and easier to go through,
although the Iraqi Human Rights Watch members who
accompanied us to the refugee camp warned us of
The refugee camp was a club of sadness. Every one
there had a story, even the children.
"No one visited us, except these people" said Sabiha
Hashim, pointing to the Iraqi HRW members who
accompanied us. She is a crippled widow in her
fifties, and a mother of two young boys. She was
burnt two years ago, and was handicapped since.
Wrapped in a blanket, she was sitting in the middle
of her miserable properties. Few dirty dishes, a
blackened broken oil lamp that has not been cleaned
ever, small primitive oil stove…etc. There was a new
electric heater donated by some generous donor, but
there was no electricity. Sabiha was silent," why do
not you talk to this lady" Sami of the Iraqi HRW
asked her, pointing to me," she came from Baghdad to
"She did not ask" replied Sabiha.
"How did you come here?" I asked looking for some
thing to say, after I saw her inhuman, totally
"The neighbors brought me when the bombing began"
" She promised to give me a dinar for every joke I
tell her" said Sami, trying to lighten the very
gloomy atmosphere " she is my fiancée now"
"poor Sami" I said, "now you have to look for 1000
jokes to get 1000 dinars" ($ 0.7)
"What do you need", I asked Sabiha
"What is it?"
"I do not know, I did not bring the doctor's
receipt, there was no time. It is unfair" that was
the only thing Sabiha said about her tragedy.
I looked for my friend Dr. Intisar, she is a
pharmacist who is working with me and other Iraqi
doctors to help Falluja refugees with medicines and
supplies. I could not see her any where, but I could
see a big crowd of women and children near the gate.
"Your friend, Dr. Intisar, is examining the children
and giving medicines", said Ismael Chali, a man in
his fifties who is helping in running the camp.
It was not raining that day, Ein Tamor was sunny and
warm. The gardens are no more than dusty yards now,
few dry trees scattered, the once beautiful tourist
flats are just walls, with hanging sheets of cloths
serving as doors and windows. Falluja women did
amazing job keeping the whole place clean.
"May be you want to see this old man" Sami said and
pointed to a man sitting in the sun, two crunches in
his hands. Hussein Abdul Nabbi, had an accident and
broke his thighs. He is the father of a family of
18; two of them are young and very healthy looking
"What are you doing here?" I asked them, in a rather
"Waiting for God's mercy" one of them replied," we
are cotton carders, our shop was burnt, three
electric sewing machines, cotton and cloths that
worth 2 million dinars, and other equipments ,all
"But staying here does not help, does it" I insisted
"We went to Falluja a week ago; we waited the whole
day but could not pass through the check points.
Next day we went at 3 am, it was not before 3 pm
that we could pass through the third sonar check
point. Our house was destroyed, there is a huge hole
in the ceiling, the fence is totally ruined, and the
furniture damaged. The soldiers told us not to move
out side the house or open the door after 6 pm. We
are not supposed to make any noise; there is no
electricity, no water, no shops, no hospitals, and
no schools. How are we supposed to live there with
our families? There are no families there, only men,
those who can not live in tents any longer."
Other Fallujans told us that burning houses, bombing
and looting are still going on until now.
Mustapha, 20 years, a student, said that he found
his house, the furniture, the door, and the car
destroyed and burnt. But the American soldiers told
him not to use any thing from Falluja, not to use
the sheets and blankets for example, not to drink
water, and that if he does, it is his own decision
and he has to take the responsibility for that.
"What does that mean?"
It means that everything in Falluja is contaminated"
Ahmad Hashim, a guard in the Falluja sewage station,
and a father of 3 children, found his house, which
was no more than a room under the water tank,
burnt." If a child gets ill, he simply dies, it is
suicide to decide to go back to Falluja now"
Alahin Jalil, a young beautiful wife and a mother of
4 children, decided to go back home , no matter
what. She was too tired of difficulties in the
refugee camp, "I have to go to Karbalaa for
medicines, there is no water here, no fuel, no
money" . When she went to Falluja, she found out
that her house which was in Nazzal district, one of
the most bombed areas in Falluja, was totally
destroyed. She decided to return back to the refugee
camp, but it was not a better option. "For the whole
family we get half a sheet of ampiciline
Money was the most difficult problem in the camp.
These families consumed all their savings, if they
had any. Food is given according to the food ration
ID. Many of them fled Falluja without bringing their
documents. Those get no food.
"What about the 150.000 dinars that are given to
each Falluja family that we read about in the
newspapers this week?"
"We never heard about them" every body replied.
Where is UN, the Iraqi government, the humanitarian
orgs, the Red Crescent, the Red Cross…they asked.
Darawsha is a small village 5 kilometers to the west
of Ein Tamor. The Iraqi HRW in Karbalaa told us that
its villagers share their houses with Falluja
refugees. When we entered Darawsha, I remembered
what James Baker said before the 1991 American
attack on Iraq. "We will return Iraq to the middle
ages" he said. This is not even the middle ages. The
narrow muddy streets, small clay huts were dark,
cold and crowded with big families. The smoky
burning wet branches are not giving warmth to the
damp cottages, more than the thick suffocating smoke
Sheikh Farhan Al-Duleimi, the local council head,
said" my name is Farhan (happy), but I am very sad
for what happened to Falluja… at the same time this
is a good example of the Shiite-Sunni unity in Iraq.
Darawsha families are all Shiite, but they are
welcoming Sunnis from Falluja as if they are one
family, despite the fact that they are poor, and
already in need of much help themselves.
We decided to stop in the middle of the village, and
to donate the medicines and financial help to the
families, promising them and ourselves to come back
again to listen to their stories. It was already 4
pm, we need to hurry back because it is too
dangerous to be on the highway after sunset. There
are at least 85 Falluja families here. Dr. Intisar
opened the car box and began to donate medicines. A
young, shy girl approached her and said "do you need
help, I am a pharmacist". We asked the villagers to
form a committee with at least one woman in it, to
receive the money and distribute it on the Falluja
"You need to go to Rahaliya and Ahmad bin Hashim
villages" said Abbass, from the Iraqi HRW, who was
accompanying us all the time," the situation in
those refugee camps are much more difficult, and
they rarely get any help, because they are too far
"Then we need to come back again soon", I replied
"Yes, you have also to visit refugees from Basra,
Amara and the marshes"
"What are you talking about?"
"There are refugees from the south, fleeing from the
worsening security situation"
The way back to Baghdad was the most difficult part
of the trip. At 5.30 it was deep dark. No lights on
the way, no moon and too much dust. Some of the
check points were already deserted by security men.
The highway was almost empty except of us. "If you
were men I would not worry "Ahmad, our driver said.
We could tell that he was very tense, reading lines
of the Holy Quran all the time, and smoking too
much. "Those looters are the worst of criminals".
Dr. Intisar was very calm and exhausted "I love you"
she suddenly said.
I was too tired to ask what made her say so.
Surprisingly, we were not afraid at all, of any
To be continued...
8) Supposedly hoax VW car ad spoofing suicide bombers:
9) This is an election analysis concerning the
possible effects of the Iraqi election on sectarian
"PFC Energy Iraq Advisory"
What Do Sectarian Politics Mean For Iraq's Next
Secular Groups Back Out:
Latest information from Baghdad indicates that another
Sunni-led group, Hatem Mukhlis' Iraqi National
Movement (INM) intends to pull out of the 30 January
elections. It is not clear why the Mukhlis list is
withdrawing, although security concerns, and
frustration that Sunni and nationalist calls for a
temporary postponement of the vote have been ignored,
were no doubt contributing factors. The INM's decision
to boycott can be seen as disingenuous on one level;
as is the case with the Iraqi Islamic Party and other
groups that have recently abandoned the poll, its name
will remain on the ballot paper because it did not
make its decision before 15 December. But it is
nonetheless indicative of the impact that insurgency
violence has had on the elections, and the degree to
which the Sunni and nationalist communities feel
alienated from what they perceive as a deeply flawed
process that is shaped by ethnic and sectarian
politics and dominated by an oligarchy of former
Interim Governing Council (IGC) parties.
That Mukhlis has withdrawn is also illustrative of the
broader challenges to the transition process and how
divided Iraq has become. Secular, pro-western and an
advocate of democracy, he was in many ways a
poster-child for the new Iraq. A physician and former
exile, he lived in the United States from the 1970s
after the Iraqi government killed his father. The
opposition movement he founded there was eventually
recognized by the Bush Administration and included on
the list of groups to receive funding under the Iraq
Liberation Act. Prior to the war, he was one of three
opposition activists invited to meet privately with
President George Bush.
Post-war, however, Mukhlis emerged as a vocal critic
of the transition process. Having failed to make it
into the IGC, he was forced to set about building a
local constituency for himself, particularly in
Salahudin Province (his family hails from Tikrit) and
Baghdad. He was disparaging of the Coalition
Provisional Authority's policies, especially its
emphasis on formal ethnic and sectarian quotas and,
somewhat ironically, its over-reliance on former exile
parties. He argued that secular and Sunni groups were
feeling increasingly disenfranchised, and warned of
the dangers of formally incorporating proportional
representation into the framework of government and
the constitution. In part, this no doubt represented
bitterness at having lost out in the new, US-selected
system. But in being forced to build an independent
power base, his views were probably a good indication
of the prevailing sentiment outside the Green Zone,
and remain so.
Islamist Shia Parties on the Rise
It is unclear how well the IMN would have faired in
the election; in reality, it would probably have
picked up only a handful of votes. Nonetheless, its
withdrawal is noteworthy. It is not simply that
another "Sunni" has pulled out in protest; equally
important is the fact that another secular,
nationalist party has removed itself from the election
scene. This trend has weighty implications for what
the government of Iraq may look like in the future,
and whether stability will be achievable in the medium
term. The overriding tendency of the media, not to
mention Washington and London, has been to cast the
elections (and the broader political transition) in
sectarian and ethnic terms. As such, the prevailing
view is that the vote will overturn very real
historical injustices and give the Shia their rightful
majority in the institutions of state, something that
will bolster stability. Iraq's Islamist Shia parties
have sought to bolster this perception since before
Saddam Hussein's ouster, not least by insisting that
it is the outcome that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
But the emphasis on sectarian quotas ignores two other
very important parallel dynamics in Iraqi politics.
The first is regional, which finds some resonance in
the attention paid to Kurdish regional autonomy,
although the sentiment is felt more broadly,
especially in the deep south of Iraq. The second
dynamic is the competition between secular and
religious views of government in Iraq. This has a long
history in Iraq, and is intimately linked to what has
become the sectarian struggle between Shia and Sunni.
While Shia clerics played an active political role in
the 1920s in fomenting opposition to the UK occupation
of Iraq and the government it established, Islamist
political organizations that sought to shape
governance in Iraq did not emerge until the 1950s. It
was then that a group of young clerics (led by the
late Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Sadr but including
such luminaries as eventual SCIRI founder Mohammed
Baqer al-Hakim; Hezbollah's former spiritual guide
Ayatollah Hassan Fadhlallah; and Qom-based Ayatollah
Kadhem al-Haeri), sought to counter the growing appeal
of secular ideologies, particularly Communism, among
the Shia poor in Baghdad and southern Iraq, which
threatened to eclipse Islam and further dilute
clerical authority. Sadr developed a coherent Islamic
political and economic program for the government of
the Iraqi state. It differed from Khomeini's Vilayat
al-Faqih (rule of the jurisprudent) in Iran, which
sanctioned direct, authoritarian clerical rule. Sadr's
vision was more liberal, and more democratic,
advocating diversity and lay legislative and executive
power, and respect for private ownership.
Nevertheless, the goal was to propagate a Shia Islamic
state, run in accordance with the Islamic Sharia, and
with the senior clerics (the Marjaiya) acting as
judicial overseers, ensuring that laws accorded with
Sadr's efforts ultimately led to the formation of the
Islamic Dawa Party, which remains the most popular
Islamist Shia organization in Iraq today, despite its
internal schisms. Dawa's mobilization efforts, its
Islamist ideology and its periodic resort to violence
were from the beginning regarded as threatening by the
secular Iraqi state that it sought to replace, and the
party faced repression, culminating in the late 1970s
and early 1980s, when Saddam Hussein's regime sought
to crush it after a series of anti-regime
demonstrations and attacks against senior government
officials. By that time, the war with clerical-led
Iran had made the Iraqi regime sensitive to any Shia
political stirrings. Tehran's assistance in creating
the umbrella group SCIRI (which included senior Dawa
leaders and which initially advocated Wilayat
al-Faqih) as a political and guerrilla force to
undermine Saddam's rule and breed opposition to it in
the south of the country fed the Baghdad regime's
growing sectarian insecurities; the 1991 anti-regime
uprisings only added to it, prompting even more
widespread repression of the Shia.
Will the Next Government Be Islamist?
Looking forward, one of the big questions is how much
the Islamist Shia parties will seek to push the goal
of Islamic government if, as expected, they do well in
elections. Publicly, Dawa and SCIRI leaders, and their
counterparts on the primarily Shia United Iraqi
Coalition list, have adopted a moderate tone, but
without going into any details. They have insisted
that they would encourage broad participation in
government and in drafting the constitution, and that
rather than seeking to impose Islamic government on
Iraq, their goal is simply to ensure that Iraq's
Islamic identity is respected. They have also backed
foreign investment in all sectors, including the oil
industry, something that Sistani apparently supports.
Indeed, they have hinted that their vision of a new
constitution would look similar to the existing
Transitional Administrative Law. Islamist Shia
moderation was certainly on display when the TAL was
being drafted, although it is not clear whether this
was due to conviction or the fact that the occupation
authority temporarily held the political upper hand
(the one area they dug their heels in was over the
role of Islam in the state, and it took intense
negotiations to reach a compromise). If Shia Islamists
were to form a majority in the next parliament,
neither the parties nor their supporters may see the
need to be so accommodating.
What is certain is that the religious current runs
strong among these parties and their
supporters?indeed, it is their raison d'etre and by
insisting so intently on the need for sectarian
balance in political institutions and paying so much
deference to Sistani, Washington has inadvertently
bolstered these groups, and with them the influence of
political Islam. Religious identity has rapidly become
the defining feature of Iraqi politics over the past
21 months, to the exclusion of a national agenda, and
this change is fueling the violent and divisive
sectarian battle for power. Even if a liberal and
democratic leaning form of political Islam is adopted
as part of the constitution, this instability could
get worse because it envisages clerical oversight by
the Shia Marjaiyah, especially Sistani, rather than a
cross-sectarian collective of clerics, and because the
Islam that will be promoted will be of the Shia
The withdrawal of secular groups like the INM from the
elections will only help to improve electoral
prospects of Shia Islamist groups, and with it their
ability to shape the new constitution. At present,
only Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya list,
President Ghazi al-Yawer Iraqiyun list and former IGC
member Adnan Pachachi's Independent Democrats list
remain to offer any real competition to the Islamist
Shia on a national scale. Although Allawi enjoys the
advantage of being the incumbent Premier, which gives
him access to state organs to back his campaign,
divisions between these secular groups could hurt
their election chances. Moreover, their close
association with the allied occupation of Iraq will
taint them in the eyes of some of their natural
constituency. Diminishing security, especially in big
cities such as Baghdad and Mosul where secular groups
would be expected to well, will also undermine their
vote getting. Indeed, turnout will be key for their
success: the lower the overall figure, the more the
Islamist Shia are likely to benefit: they have been
more adept at mobilizing their supporters and have
successfully used the symbol of Sistani to rally the
faithful behind them. The campaign efforts by Sunni
and secular independent nationalist groups has been
paltry by comparison, and faced with a combination of
security fears, a perceived lack of representation and
a growing sense of disenfranchisement, they may choose
not to vote at all.
Markets & Countries Group
+1 202 721 0313
10) Aceh Evangelicals:
Hong Kong Standard Weekend
January 22-23, 2005
God squads of Aceh
By Vaudine England
Father Fernando, aged 70, is more comfortable speaking
Indonesian or his native Italian, rather than
English. A resident of Aceh for almost two decades,
he runs the Catholic church and adjacent school,
serving a flock of mainly Chinese-Indonesians.
His twinkling eyes and shaggy white hair are a
testament to his survival skills. As usual on a
Christmas Day, he had celebrated mass in central
Banda Aceh then taken a bus down the west coast to
There, in a town since made famous by disaster, he
held a Christmas mass. The next morning, as he was at
the bus station ready to go back to Banda Aceh, he
heard the people shouting in panic. With everyone
else, the priest ran away from the coast trying to
escape the tsunami, but he couldn't run fast enough.
He took refuge in one of the few buildings left
standing: on the second floor of a mosque.
It was a fitting place. ``Yes of course, why not! I
have also been giving refuge to Muslims for many
years,'' he says, in reference to his church's
program of importing foreign doctors to operate on
Muslim children with cleft palates along Aceh's north
'`I spent four days in Meulaboh,'' recounts the
priest, ``moving from one house to another. First we
stayed in an Acehnese house, then in a Chinese house,
then in a school with many policemen.'' He slept under
a peasant house, with soldiers, so close to a chicken
coop he feared getting bird flu, he jokes.
His odyssey reveals the tolerant and cosmopolitan
aspects of life atop Aceh's Islamic bedrock. This is
where Islam first came to Indonesia half a millenium
ago - and it has generally been confident, erudite
Islam rather than its paranoid, more radical cousin.
Even in the midst of what Father Fernando calls ``an
apocalyptic vision'' of destruction, the ties that
bound humanity were stronger than those that divided.
But some Indonesians and aid workers worry that the
need to let Acehnese think for themselves may be lost
in the enormous aid push underway, some of it by
ambitious religious groups with agendas that go
beyond shelter and food.
One United States Agency for International Development
(USAID) official says it's the perfect opportunity
for aid groups - faith-based or not - to make funding
proposals based around the tsunami. ``Even in the
first week we saw a flood of proposals, with high
expat salaries, the works. This disaster will make
careers,'' she says. A key goal early on was to get
USAID stickers on to every shipment to make sure the
publicity was clear. Some staff have been seen giving
For many groups pouring into Aceh, it's not only a
time to harvest the big bucks of aid flowing in, but
to harvest souls.
Veteran aid workers say they are not surprised by the
onslaught of unusual groups appearing at the scene of
disaster, but fear their impact.
``It's the first time I've run into so many different
people from so many different agencies in one
place,'' says Wayne Ulrich, emergency coordinator for
Catholic Relief Services, a non-evangelical, pragmatic
Many long-term aid agencies might have roots in a
particular faith but have decades of experience and
they work irrespective of others' race, creed or
religion. These ecumenical churches offer broad
acceptance of varied faiths and aim their good works
at a multicultural world.
Some groups are widely seen as cults, pushing a
quasi-religious doctrine of healing and feeling.
Other groups, particularly American evangelicals
associated with the conservative politics of the Bush
administration, focus on a personal and direct
relationship with a defined God through literal
adherence to ancient texts. Their temptation, say
critics, is to use disaster as an excuse to make
``There are elements here which shouldn't be here,''
says the director of one of the largest international
aid agencies working in Aceh. ``There are lots of
faith-based groups, and some of them are explicit
about the need to spread the word. People will get
sick of that pretty quick.''
In a city famed for its gracious mosque, built
according to an Italian design with Dutch money in
1881, still standing alongside colonial and Chinese
buildings, a rich history has survived the tsunami.
But it has yet to weather the spiritual after-shocks.
Directly across from the Pendopo, the old Dutch
Governor's House in Banda Aceh built in 1880, is a
cluster of large green tents with foreigners sitting
around in bright yellow T-shirts. The logo: ``Church
``We're focusing on emotional stress and trauma,''
says Gregory Churilov, an Argentinian convert to the
cult which promises new life for hard cash.
``Here, it's as if everyone's been in a huge car
accident, whole families have been wiped out, and
Scientology offers a methodology to handle loss and
He disclaims any intention to garner converts: ``We
really frown on that. You can look at all this in two
ways: that we are getting more exposure because we
are greedy for converts, or that we are getting more
exposure because we are willing to help.''
He and his cohorts are offering the so-called science
of ``Dianetics,'' a cathartic form of therapy which
includes a form of massage ``to get the person in
communication with their body.'' Churilov claims to
have mastered a ``basic technique to orient people
into the present, to snap them out of the past,
making them more alert.''
But one group of men gathered around a cooking fire at
the university's mosque were merely bemused, feeling
no need for massage, they said, and having no idea
what Scientology might be.
In an unusual twist on the notion of bringing aid to
the destitute, Churilov says his group arrived in
Aceh with nothing and were given tents by the army
and food by friendly locals. Unfazed that the aid
flow was meant to go the other way, he used this as an
example of how well accepted the Scientologists were
by the local people, rather than an example of
But the notion that catching people in a weakened
state and exposing them to ideas and practices they
have never felt the need for before is disturbing.
``I was at a meeting and I was surprised at how many
groups there were saying they were into psycho-social
and trauma recovery, and we've never heard of them
before,'' says Indonesian psychologist and London
graduate Livia Iskandar. She helps run a group called
Pulih (literally To Recover), of professional trauma
experts who focus on the need for community-based
solutions to conflict or disaster.
``There is a danger of pathologizing people and not
giving time for normal recovery to take place. This
is a collective trauma - it's too early to label
individuals as traumatized.
``We know the Acehnese are very strong people. Aceh
has special characteristics in its culture and
religion that even as Indonesians, we need to be
aware of. We really appreciate efforts by the
international community, but there is a need to
respect the traditions already in place,'' she says.
Radical Islamic groups have received the most
attention so far, but aid workers at established
agencies also wonder what Christian evangelists,
including Mormons, on the streets of Banda Aceh might
have to offer.
A strange confluence of need and available money has
also drawn groups focused on, say, the trafficking of
women, which has rarely been an issue in cohesive
``We're having money thrown at us by the United States
government for trafficking programs we haven't even
asked for!'' says a communications director of a
large international agency.
One faith-based group intent on saving women from
prostitution, whether they like it or not, is the
International Justice Mission (IJM), a group of
God-fearing, Harvard-trained lawyers. Describing
itself as a ``Christ-centered'' organization on its
Web site, it argues - and provides biblical
references for - a doctrine of ``explicitly
Christian'' direct intervention.
IJM's Sean Litton, speaking on the phone from Medan
wouldn't talk about what he was doing in Sumatra and
refers callers to his US head office. ``We're in the
middle of things it would not be a good thing to talk
about,'' he says.
Drew Bishop of Compassion International is more open
and admits that its current work with local partner,
PESAT, is a departure from its usual business of
training local churches in child development.
``We are channeling funds through local partners and
providing a framework for the many volunteers coming
in who have no idea what they're doing,'' says
``We had looked to contact Christians in Aceh but
found most of the churches were filled with bodies.
We're still looking, we want to get them involved.
``We want to distance ourselves from Christian groups
who are trying to assign blame or judgment. We are
here just because we care. We're not asking if
recipients are Christian or not. We're saying we can
help you to help your own people.''
Hans Geni, of PESAT, is an Indonesian Pentecostal
Christian but insists his kindergartens all over
Indonesia follow the national, not a sectarian,
curriculum. The tsunami has given his group an
opportunity to enter Aceh for the first time.
It's a different faith but a similar message over at
the office of the World Association of Muslim Youth.
Hamid Sa-ad from Jeddah has an ``open budget'' and is
overseeing the work of loading piles of food and
household kits on to trucks for distribution to camps.
``We have some Islamic programs in education, to
explain what Islam is to non-Muslim people. But in
Indonesia there is no need for this,'' he says.
But right next door is the office of a group which
aided the rampaging Indonesian military-backed
militias in East Timor in 1999. Young men lounging at
the offices of the Laskar Merah Putih say they're
defenders of Indonesian national unity.
``We are friends with the TNI [Indonesian Armed
Forces],'' boasts Eddie Juliansyah, an Acehnese who
helps run the Laskar Merah Putih office.
More recent Islamic entrants include the Front Pembela
Islam (FPI), better known for trashing bars and other
houses of sin in Jakarta, but now earning plaudits
for their volunteer work in collecting Aceh's corpses
for proper burial.
Camped out in the Heroes Cemetery on the same street
as the expanding Unicef office in Banda Aceh, FPI
leaders tried to expel two female reporters who
refused to wear headscarves. ``This is an Islamic
state,'' they insisted, although Acehnese Muslims
rarely insist on such dogma.
Ploughing through the well-funded buffet of groups and
ideas now on offer to the Acehnese in this vulnerable
time of their lives, it's easy to reach overload.
That's why the non-evangelical, mainstream Indonesian
Council of Churches, related to the liberal World
Council of Churches in Geneva, has a special
taskforce to track just what Christian groups are
``We are sharing information about the activities of
all these groups,'' says Frans Tumiwa, a leader of
the Council of Churches. He and his colleagues worry
that many conservative Christian groups are giving
the rest of the church a bad name.
``The people in Aceh need to be helped, with practical
things, with food and supplies. But when people come
in saying they're representing this or that Christian
group, well, there shouldn't be any talk about
religion. Some of these groups can destroy the whole
image of the church,'' he says. He too worries about
the number of groups he's never heard of before,
charging into Aceh with many thousands of dollars and
an explicit evangelical agenda.
``They give a wrong impression about the real mission
of the church, which is to be in solidarity with the
people of Aceh,'' he says.
Samaritan's Purse is promising an airlift of a
helicopter with crucial supplies. This group is run
by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham,
and is overt about catering to the spiritual as well
as the physical needs of victims of the tsunami.
Its Web site offers special prayers with biblical
references to help make a difference for the tsunami
survivors, promising to meet the needs of victims
``with the purpose of sharing God's love through His
Son, Jesus Christ.''
Just as conversion efforts by radical Islamists have
long been rebuffed in Aceh, so too has any other
But the Samaritan's Purse promises to ``offer more
than help. We offer hope. To suffering people in a
broken world, we share the news of the only One who
can bring true peace - Jesus Christ, Prince of
World Relief is another one to watch. One veteran aid
agency director recalled seeing World Relief on the
Thai-Cambodian border years ago, filling ox-carts
with bibles for Cambodians just emerging from the
traumatic years of Khmer Rouge rule.
'`The bibles became strangely popular and it took us a
while to work out why, but it was because the paper
they were printed on was such good quality that it
could be re-used as cigarette paper. It burned very
nicely,'' the agency director says.
Dr Galen Carey directs World Relief's work in
Indonesia and insists he wouldn't dream of sending
bibles into Aceh as it would be ``too sensitive.'' He
says his work focuses on health, education,
agriculture, refugees and trade.
Up to 20 percent of World Relief's funds come from
churches, he says, some from private donations, and
about half from USAID.
``This is not a time to take advantage of people. What
we are explaining is that this is a time of tragedy,
it's a time to provide help on a human to human
basis,'' Carey says.
``We have no plans to bring in bibles in or any other
literature. I can't speak for what has happened
Meanwhile, the Taiwanese Buddhist group, the Tzu Chi
Foundation, is bringing in tents and building homes
for thousands of displaced people regardless of
``We don't get involved in politics. We have Muslim,
Christian and Buddhist volunteers,'' says Ji Shou, a
Malaysian staffer with Tzu Chi.
11) New Orleans Jazz Funeral for Democracy Pictures,
Commentary. This was a creative peace demonstration
on the day of Bush's inauguration:
12) Pre-inauguration global poll:
World fears new Bush era
Blair urges more consensual US approach as poll shows
unease in 18 out of 21 nations
Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor
Thursday January 20 2005
George Bush will be sworn in as president of the
United States for a second term today in a lavish
Washington ceremony, amid mounting international
concern that his new administration will make the
world a more dangerous place.
A poll of 21 countries published yesterday -
reflecting opinion in Africa, Latin America, North
America, Asia and Europe - showed that a clear
majority have grave fears about the next four years.
Fifty-eight per cent of the 22,000 who took part in
the poll, commissioned by the BBC World Service, said
they expected Mr Bush to have a negative impact on
peace and security, compared with only 26% who
considered him a positive force...
13) Guardian op-ed before Inauguration:
Davos World, Pax Americana, New Caliphate or Cycle of
Fear - the planet's choices for 2020
Thursday January 20 2005
George Bush will offer Americans a shining vision of
their place in the world for the next four years when
he is sworn in for his second term today. But in the
White House sits a copy of a newly published report on
the world in 2020 which contains few of the
certainties he prefers...
14) Oh Canada!:
Canada, here they come...
They threatened to run for the border if Bush was
re-elected. But how many did? Today, as the President
is sworn in on the steps of the Capitol, Andrew
Buncombe meets the Americans who are choosing to begin
new lives in self-imposed exile
20 January 2005
At their home in a comfortable, quiet Seattle suburb,
Mike Teller and his partner Bob Vesely will not be
cheering today. Indeed, while the celebratory
thousands line the streets for the presidential
inauguration 3,000 miles away in Washington DC, Teller
and Vesely will think of their future and the greener
pastures they believe await them. They'll be thinking
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