Blame the Pentagon
The nation’s biggest polluter isn’t a corporation. It’s the Pentagon. Every year the Department of Defense churns out more than 750,000 tons of hazardous waste — more than the top three chemical companies combined.
Yet the military remains largely exempt from compliance with most federal and state environmental laws, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Pentagon’s partner in crime, is working hard to keep it that way.
For the past five decades the federal government, defense contractors and the chemical industry have joined forces to block public health protections against perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been shown to effect children’s growth and mental progress by disrupting the function of the thyroid gland which regulates brain development.
Perchlorate has been leaking from literally hundreds of defense plants and military installations across the country. The EPA has reported that perchlorate is present in drinking and groundwater supplies in 35 states. Center for Disease Control and independent studies have also overwhelmingly shown that perchlorate is existent in our food supplies, cow’s milk, and human breast milk. As a result virtually every American has some level of perchlorate in their body.
Currently only two states, California and Massachusetts, have set a maximum allowable contaminant level for perchlorate in drinking water. But the EPA won’t follow these states’ lead. In the Colorado River, which provides water for over 20 million people, perchlorate levels are high. The chemical is most prevalent in the Southwest and California as a result of the large number of military operations and defense contractors in the region.
In 2001 the EPA estimated that the total liability for the cleanup of toxic military sites would exceed $350 billion, or five times the Superfund Act liability of private industry. But the federal government has been complacent and allowed perchlorate to run rampant throughout our water supplies. This negligence and lack of regulatory oversight has left the Pentagon, NASA and defense contractors free to set their own levels, trimming the high, but necessary costs of restoring groundwater quality.
While the situation has become dire in recent years, it was the Clinton administration that didn’t do nearly enough to begin cleaning up these sites and certainly did not keep a close eye on how the Pentagon spent the money it received. During the 1990s the Defense Department spent only $3.5 billion a year cleaning up toxic military sites — much of that on studies, not actual work. In 1998, the Defense Science Review Board, a federal advisory committee set up to provide independent advice to the secretary of defense, looked at the problem and concluded that the Pentagon had no clear environmental cleanup policy, goals or program, which led lawyer Jonathan Turley, who holds the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at George Washington University, to call the Pentagon the nation’s “premier environmental villain.”
“If they can spend $1 million on a cruise missile, it seems kind of ridiculous they won’t spend $200,000 to see if our food is contaminated with rocket fuel,” says Renee Sharp, a scientist with Environmental Working Group. But if the Clinton program was chintzy, the Bush plan has been downright penurious.
While Bush has boosted overall Pentagon spending by billions, the administration has simultaneously slashed its environmental remediation program. Moreover, the Bush defense plan has called for “new rounds of base closures” to “shape the military more efficiently.” Efficiency is usually a code word for sidestepping environmental rules.
These military sites, which total more than 50 million acres, are among the most insidious and dangerous legacies left by the Pentagon. They are strewn with toxic bomb fragments, unexploded munitions, buried hazardous waste, fuel dumps, open pits filled with debris, burn piles and yes, rocket fuel. An internal EPA memo from 1998 warned of the looming problem: “As measured by acres, and probably as measured by number of sites, ranges and buried munitions represent the largest cleanup program in the United States.”
When a site gets too polluted, the Pentagon has chosen simply to close it down and turn it over to another federal agency. Over the past three decades, the Pentagon has transferred more than 16 million acres, often with little or no remediation. The former bombing areas have been turned into wildlife refuges, city and state parks, golf courses, landfills, airports and shopping malls.
Serious contamination of streams, soil and groundwater is a problem at nearly every military training ground. The sites are often saturated with heavy metals and other pollutants as well as unexploded weapons. The Government Accountability Office’s list of the kinds of unexploded munitions left behind on many training sites reads like a catalogue for a Middle East arms bonanza: “hand grenades, rockets, guided missiles, projectiles, mortars, rifle grenades, and bombs.”
But the government has gone to great extents to cover up its deadly legacy. In 2002 the Pentagon, defense contractors and perchlorate makers persuaded the editors of a prestigious journal to rewrite an article on the chemical’s health effects without the lead author’s knowledge or consent. Then in 2005 the White House loaded a National Academy of Science panel, which was set up to assess the health risks of perchlorate, with paid consultants of the rocket fuel industry, which, not surprisingly, recommended that exposure levels be set many times higher than the lower doses recommended by numerous independent research studies.
“Perchlorate provides a textbook example of a corrupted health protection system, where polluters, the Pentagon, the White House and the EPA have conspired to block health protections in order to pad budgets, curry political favor, and protect corporate profits,” Richard Wiles, Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on May 7 during a hearing held by committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who would like to see national safety standards for perchlorate in drinking water.
“All the pieces needed to support strong health protections are in place,” said Wiles. “This is a nightmare of epic proportions for the Department of Defense and its contractors, and rather than address it head-on, they have spent 50 years and millions of dollars trying to avoid it.”
Jeffrey St. Clair’s latest books are Born Under a Bad Sky and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Joshua Frank, Managing Editor of CounterPunch, is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, and of Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Critical EPA report highlighting chemical dangers to kids is sidetracked (openchannel.nbcnews.com)
- EPA Report Highlighting Chemical Dangers to Kids Is Sidetracked (openchannel.nbcnews.com)
- Ten years after toxic plume, Morgan Hill and surrounding communities work to find normalcy (mercurynews.com)
- White House stalls critical EPA report highlighting chemical dangers to children (healthimpactnews.com)
In an attempt to scare the public with a looming cyber attack on US infrastructure, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is once again pushing Congress to pass legislation allowing the government to have greater control over the Internet.
Napolitano issued the warnings Thursday, claiming that inaction could result in a “cyber 9/11” attack that could knock out water, electricity and gas, causing destruction similar to that left behind by Hurricane Sandy.
Napolitano said that in order to prevent such an attack, Congress must pass legislation that gives the US government greater access to the Internet and cybersecurity information from the private sector. Such a bill, known as CISPA or Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, was already introduced last year, but failed to pass in Congress due to concerns expressed by businesses and privacy advocates.
“We shouldn’t wait until there is a 9/11 in the cyber world. There are things we can and should be doing right now that, if not prevent, would mitigate the extent of the damage,” Napolitano said in a speech at the Wilson Center, a Washington, DC think tank.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has also been a strong advocate for increased governmental grip on the web and in October warned that the US is facing a possible “cyber-Pearl Harbor” by foreign hackers.
“A cyber attack perpetuated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11,” he said during a speech. “Such a destructive cyber terrorist attack could paralyze the nation.”
Last September, Napolitano reiterated disappointment with Congress for failing to pass the cybersecurity legislation in August.
“Attacks are coming all the time,” she said in a speech at the Social Good Summit. “They are coming from different sources, they take different forms. But they are increasing in seriousness and sophistication.”
Despite Homeland Security’s constant warnings that hackers could shut down critical US infrastructure, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 was shot down by the Senate in August, even though the Obama administration had pushed for the bill in numerous hearings and briefings.
Privacy advocates had expressed concern that the US government would be able to read Americans’ personal e-mails, online chat conversations, and other personal information that only private companies and servers might have access to. The head of the National Security Agency promised it wouldn’t abuse its power, but critics have remained skeptical.
A coalition of Democrats this year pledged to make this legislation a priority.
“Given all that relies on a safe and secure Internet, it is vital that we do what’s necessary to protect ourselves from hackers, cyber thieves, and terrorists,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
The White House is also working on an executive order that would encourage companies to meet government cybersecurity standards.
I guess it goes to show you how limited the debate over warmaking is when politicians whose records are mostly pro-war can be portrayed as war skeptics.
That’s what is happening with Barack Obama’s new cabinet picks: Sen. John Kerry for secretary of State and former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary. In today’s New York Times (1/9/12), Elisabeth Bumiller has a piece headlined, “For Two Nominees, Vietnam Bred Doubts on War,” where she claims:
Between them, Senator John Kerry and Chuck Hagel have five Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in Vietnam, shared a harrowing combat experience in the Mekong Delta and responded in different ways to the conflict that tore their generation apart.
But in nominating one as secretary of State and the other as Defense secretary, President Obama hopes to bring to his administration two veterans with the same sensibility about the futilities of war.
Bumiller goes on to report that Hagel and Kerry supporters say their Vietnam experiences means they “question the price of American involvement overseas.” That would make a certain kind of sense. But their actual records do very little to support this claim.
After quoting Hagel’s criticism of the ongoing Afghan War, Bumiller writes:
Like Mr. Kerry, Mr. Hagel voted for the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq but became an early opponent of the Bush administration’s execution of the war.
So both of them voted to authorize the Iraq War, and supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Kerry supported the Panama invasion and NATO’s war in Serbia. And during his presidential campaign in 2004 he talked about possibly increasing the number of troops in Iraq.
Hagel’s record, as I noted already, has been more supportive of U.S. warmaking than not. If anything, their records suggest they are willing to criticize U.S. wars after they’ve voted to support them. This might be in line with the White House’s thinking, but it shouldn’t be confused with an overall skepticism towards U.S. wars and their “futilities.”
Elsewhere in the paper, David Sanger argues that Kerry and Hagel would be part of a “new national security team deeply suspicious of the wisdom of American military interventions around the world.” They “bear the scars of a war that ended when the president was a teenager,” and–along with Obama’s CIA pick John Brennan–”have sounded dismissive of attempts to send thousands of troops to rewire foreign nations as wasteful and ill-conceived.”
True–except when they haven’t.
Since Dick Cheney wasn’t available, Obama is picking the next best thing to run the CIA, John Brennan.
Here’s what some of the qualification checklist may have looked like.
I’ve never understood the need to cloak the titles of government positions in Orwellian nonsense. Brennan’s title of counterterrorism adviser should actually have been something like ‘Head of US Terrorism.’ At least then we could have given the administration a ✔ for transparency.
Rather than scrap it as un-American and authoritarian, Godfather Obama has institutionalized the practice of “unlawful indefinite detention” he inherited from his predecessor in the White House.
That’s the view of Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the rule of law. Romero says that instead of closing down the Guantanamo operation and resolving its legal cases in the Federal courts, Obama has done the opposite and, in fact, revived “the illegitimate Guantanamo military commissions.” Romero doesn’t refer to Obama as “Godfather,” of course. Maybe because he doesn’t have to.
Like a true godfather, though, the man in the White House doesn’t want to hear about what went down during those illegal detentions. He refuses to have his Justice Department consigliere investigate the illegal kidnappings and torture by the CIA GoodFellas at any of their secret sites. McClatchy News Service reports this includes dungeons in Poland, Thailand, Romania, and Lithuania.
While Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski wants a “thorough investigation” of what went on at a CIA-run villa about 100 miles north of Warsaw, McClatchy’s Roy Gutman reports, “The U.S. government has stonewalled all known requests for assistance.”
Likely it’s concealing gross, cowardly, and obscene tortures of the most revolting nature, such as threatening prisoners with murder using power drills, as well as waterboarding them. And that’s just what’s known. Poland has 20 books of as yet unreleased testimony.
“If former officials are brought to trial, or if the classified files in the (Polish) prosecutors’ offices are made public, the result will be revelations about an American anti-terrorism operation whose details U.S. officials are fighting to keep secret,” Gutman writes.
Keep in mind that the prisoners in such secret dungeons are kidnapped off the streets in the first place, without the benefit of legal proceedings, and held for years. Writing of Guantanamo in the Miami Herald of October 3, 2011, Joseph Margulies, perhaps the most prominent defense lawyer who has served there, says prisoners “may never hold their children or say goodbye to a dying mother. Their fate is the four walls of a prison cell… ”
Even some men cleared for transfer by the Bush and Obama regimes “remain in custody,” Margulies writes—despite Obama’s pledge to shut Guantanamo. But there’s worse, much worse.
“Murder” is the term for killing without legal proceedings or a state of war. Protests stream in regularly from Pakistani officials over the U.S. killing of civilians by drone attacks, yet the godfather continues to sign off on them. The protests make a sham of Obama’s claim the drone attacks are the outcome of some careful screening process.
At minimum you would think a president would shut down any criminal cell he found operating out of the coils of the federal establishment. Yet, after George W. Bush expanded the CIA into a veritable federalized Ku Klux Klan, Obama refuses to dismantle it or prosecute its officials.
The Obama crime syndicate is operating on many fronts—it prosecutes whistle-blowers, it expands germ warfare, it threatens nuclear war against UN members, it lavishes billions on research into new ways of killing and disabling people, and, not least, it makes criminal wars. In short, it does everything you’d expect a godfather to do. All that’s left is for the world to kiss his ring.
Sherwood Ross can be contacted at email@example.com
- Poland peels back layers on secret CIA prison for suspected terrorists (mcclatchydc.com)
- The Obama GITMO myth (salon.com)
This was a major week in the debate over war with Iran versus diplomacy.
The hawkish AIPAC lobby organized its annual conference in Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Obama at the White House, and the pro-war crowd had one goal in mind: to pressure the President to draw a new “red line” for military action to try to block diplomacy with Iran and make Iran war inevitable.
But with your help, thirty-seven Members of Congress called on the President to support diplomacy.
Top former military and intelligence officials urged the President to stand firm against pressure for war in a full-page ad sponsored by NIAC. New diplomacy with Iran is now in the process of being scheduled.
And the momentum has shifted. The President refused to give in to pressure. He refused to draw a new “red line,” stood firm against “loose talk of war,” and said that there is time for diplomacy to work.
Diplomacy is the only way to prevent war, prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, and put mechanisms in place to effectively address human rights abuses in Iran and create space for Iran’s pro-democracy movement.
But, having failed to pressure the President, AIPAC is now lobbying your elected officials in Congress to support a resolution drawing a new “red line” aimed at blocking diplomacy and making war with Iran inevitable.
The movement against war and in support of diplomacy is growing, and we can stop the war push if we stand strong. Please send a letter to your elected officials in the House and Senate and then call them TODAY using a special toll free number, 1-855-68 NO WAR (1-855-686-6927), to urge them to oppose this resolution.
Here is a quick script you can use:
• My name is _______ and I’m calling from [your city].
• I am very concerned about the prospect of another war in the Middle East with Iran. I’m asking that you oppose a dangerous pro-Iran war resolution [Senate Resolution 380 / House Resolution 568], because it aims to block diplomacy and make war with Iran inevitable. Please have the courage to speak out publicly against the push for war with Iran and in support of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff.
• Thank you.
You can find more information on this pro-war resolution here.
- Say NO to AIPAC’s “Nuclear Weapons Capability” Scheme! by justforeignpolicy.org (socialactions.net)
Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.
The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.
Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.
Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, a Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying too get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.
The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”
It’s not just the president who would be spared from protesters, either.
Covered under the bill is any person protected by the Secret Service. Although such protection isn’t extended to just everybody, making it a federal offense to even accidentally disrupt an event attended by a person with such status essentially crushes whatever currently remains of the right to assemble and peacefully protest.
Hours after the act passed, presidential candidate Rick Santorum was granted Secret Service protection. For the American protester, this indeed means that glitter-bombing the former Pennsylvania senator is officially a very big no-no, but it doesn’t stop with just him. Santorum’s coverage under the Secret Service began on Tuesday, but fellow GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has already been receiving such security. A campaign aide who asked not to be identified confirmed last week to CBS News that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has sought Secret Service protection as well. Even former contender Herman Cain received the armed protection treatment when he was still in the running for the Republican Party nod.
In the text of the act, the law is allowed to be used against anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so, but those grounds are considered any area where someone — rather it’s President Obama, Senator Santorum or Governor Romney — will be temporarily visiting, whether or not the public is even made aware. Entering such a facility is thus outlawed, as is disrupting the orderly conduct of “official functions,” engaging in disorderly conduct “within such proximity to” the event or acting violent to anyone, anywhere near the premises. Under that verbiage, that means a peaceful protest outside a candidate’s concession speech would be a federal offense, but those occurrences covered as “special events of national significance” don’t just stop there, either. And neither does the list of covered persons that receive protection.
Outside of the current presidential race, the Secret Service is responsible for guarding an array of politicians, even those from outside America. George W Bush is granted protection until ten years after his administration ended, or 2019, and every living president before him is eligible for life-time, federally funded coverage. Visiting heads of state are extended an offer too, and the events sanctioned as those of national significance — a decision that is left up to the US Department of Homeland Security — extends to more than the obvious. While presidential inaugurations and meeting of foreign dignitaries are awarded the title, nearly three dozen events in all have been considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE) since the term was created under President Clinton. Among past events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list are Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, most State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
With Secret Service protection awarded to visiting dignitaries, this also means, for instance, that the federal government could consider a demonstration against any foreign president on American soil as a violation of federal law, as long as it could be considered disruptive to whatever function is occurring.
When thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Chicago this spring for the 2012 G8 and NATO summits, they will also be approaching the grounds of a National Special Security Event. That means disruptive activity, to whichever court has to consider it, will be a federal offense under the act.
And don’t forget if you intend on fighting such charges, you might not be able to rely on evidence of your own. In the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, under current law, brings criminal charges. Don’t fret. It’s not like the country will really try to enforce it — right?
On the bright side, does this mean that the law could apply to law enforcement officers reprimanded for using excessive force on protesters at political events? Probably. Of course, some fear that the act is being created just to keep those demonstrations from ever occurring, and given the vague language on par with the loose definition of a “terrorist” under the NDAA, if passed this act is expected to do a lot more harm to the First Amendment than good.
United States Representative Justin Amash (MI-03) was one of only three lawmakers to vote against the act when it appeared in the House late Monday. Explaining his take on the act through his official Facebook account on Tuesday, Rep. Amash writes, “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.”
“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights,” adds the representative.
Now that the act has overwhelmingly made it through the House, the next set of hands to sift through its pages could very well be President Barack Obama’s; the US Senate had already passed the bill back on February 6. Less than two months ago, the president approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, essentially suspending habeas corpus for American citizens. Could the next order out of the Executive Branch be revoking some of the Bill of Rights? Only if you consider the part about being able to assemble a staple of the First Amendment, really. Don’t worry, though. Obama was, after all, a constitutional law professor. When he signed the NDAA on December 31, he accompanied his signature with a signing statement that let Americans know that, just because he authorized the indefinite detention of Americans didn’t mean he thought it was right.
Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.
By Linda S. Heard | Online Journal | February 17, 2010
February 13 marked 19 years since the US bombing of Baghdad’s two-storey Al Amiriya bomb shelter when 480 civilians were literally incinerated by two American 2,000 pound laser-guided “smart bombs,” designed to penetrate multiple layers of concrete. Most of the victims were Iraqi, but there were also a number of Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians and Egyptians who were consumed by the blasts.
It was 4:30 in the morning on February 13, 1991, when the pilots of two stealth bombers released their deadly cargo. Until then, the women, children and elderly inside had felt they were safe in the purpose-built facility designed to protect against nuclear attack — and equipped with bunk beds, televisions, bathrooms, kitchens and a clinic. Their spirits were high after celebrating Eid Al Fitr the previous evening, but some were worried about fathers, brothers and husbands who had remained in their homes to ensure that there was enough room in the shelter for their loved ones.
In the event, their own lives were tragically cut short. Those sheltering on the upper floor were burnt to death; in some instances their silhouettes — carbonised by high temperatures — were eerily seared onto the walls, including that of a woman clutching onto her baby. Most of those in the lower hall were killed by boiling water that gushed from the shelter’s two enormous water tanks following the impact of the bombs.
Only 14 survived, but they could hardly be considered the lucky ones since the majority sustained terrible injuries from the blasts. Rescuers who rushed to the scene were frustrated by a lack of electricity to power their equipment and a thick steel door that was so hot it was glowing. All they could do was listen to the screams and the cries of the dying.
The US government initially claimed that it had received intelligence reports that the bunker was not a civilian shelter, but one of Saddam Hussain’s military command centres.
However, the US Department of Defence later admitted that they knew the facility had previously been used for civil defence purposes. No evidence that the site had been used by the military was ever found, but that didn’t deter the White House from accusing Saddam of using “select civilians” as a cover for the facility’s true mission. Like many other US accusations this turned out to be untrue.
Today, Al Amiriya shelter stands as a monument to the dead; its walls adorned with photographs of victims, commemoratory brass plaques, prayers and flowers. Visitors who must steel their emotions before entering often emerge traumatised. Writing about the experience Na’eem Jeenah relates: “A feeling of revulsion and disgust towards these creatures we call human beings and for the ease with which we allow ourselves to become less than human.”
Ebrahim Alloush says anyone with “one-tenth of a heart and one percent of a conscience will shake with rage and anguish as they try to hold back the tears.”
Outside Iraq and the Middle East, the story of Al Amiriya was soon forgotten as the world celebrated St Valentine’s Day just hours after the attack. Now, a young Moroccan-born French filmmaker based in Dubai is determined to keep alive the memories of those who died such a terrible death.
For her first short film, Faces of Wrath, that focused on the horrors in Gaza, Siham Jouhari received an award from Al Jazeera’s fifth International Documentary Film Festival 2009 in the category ‘New Horizon.’ It is her fervent hope that her second — and much more ambitious — film, Al Amiraya: The Shelter, will be completed in time to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Al Amiriya tragedy.
The script is a simple, uncomplicated yet poignant account of real people who lost those they cared for most, such as Abu Ali and his wife Saoussan who were robbed of their four children. It also recounts the story of a taxi driver Yousuf who lost his entire family, save one son, and Ahmad, a young man in love, whose burns were so severe that he had to be sent abroad for treatment, but who never stops searching for his beautiful childhood sweetheart Bouchra.
We will never know what extraordinary accomplishments these ordinary people could have achieved had they been allowed to continue with their lives, but they deserve to be acknowledged and remembered — firstly, as a reminder to mankind to never again sink to such depths and, secondly, to honour their memories and the memories of all the innocent victims of Iraq.
For some, Al Amiraya: the Shelter may be hard to watch, but its essence is one of hope and courage. Those of us who are appalled at the callous way big powers write-off innocent deaths as “collateral damage” can only wish Jouhari well with her respectful and loving mission to ensure that there’s one American valentine signed in blood that we must never ever forget.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.