Nawar Tamawi’s Instagram Guide To Iraq.

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Meet Nawar Tamawi. Tamawi always hated the way Hollywood portrayed Iraq – either as an eternal warzone or a desert full of camels and belly dancers. He started taking pictures, as a way of fighting against these narrow (mis)conceptions about his country.

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Tamawi says instagramming allowed him to explore Iraq in a way he hadn’t done before – “through the vintage alleys of Baghdad, the ancient streets of Babylon, holy sites in Najaf and Karbala, the old citadel in Erbil, and to the tip of Mesopotamia, where the rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet in Shatt Al Arab, near Basra.”

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He has set a goal for himself to capture the beauty of all eighteen provinces of Iraq – unfortunately, some of the places he wants to visit are still largely dried out and neglected. He writes how life in Iraq is getting more unbearable, day by day.

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Tamawi writes:  “More and more, I feel…

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Breaking Through Power

I am very excited to be included as a speaker in a large conference Ralph Nader is putting together in Washington, DC at the end of May.

Breaking Through Power

In Ralph’s own words:

…the civil society is fighting back with four full days (May 23, 24, 25, 26, 2016) at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. with a civic mobilization designed to break through the power of the corporate/political complex.

Breaking through power means securing long-overdue democratic solutions made possible by a new muscular civic nexus connecting local communities and Washington, D.C.

On these four days, speakers will present innovative ideas and strategies designed to take existing civic groups to higher levels of effectiveness.

Day One — May 23, 2016 will feature an unprecedented series of presentations by seventeen successful citizen advocacy groups of long standing.

Day Two – May 24, 2016 brings together a large gathering of authors, documentary filmmakers, reporters, columnists, musicians, poets and editorial cartoonists who will demonstrate the need for wider audiences over the mass media.

Day Three – May 25, 2016 will be dedicated to enhancing the waging of peace over the waging of war. We will assemble leading scholars having military and national security backgrounds such as ret. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State, Colin Powell, veterans groups such as Veterans For Peace, and long-time peace advocacy associations to explain how peace is more powerful than war.

Day Four — May 26, 2016 will unveil a new Civic Agenda (much of which has Left/Right support) that could be advanced by engaged and enraged citizens in each Congressional district. The agenda includes recognized necessities ignored by Congress for decades and will be presented by a veritable brain trust of recognized advocates for the well-being of present and future generations.

I’ll be speaking on the third day, May 25, along with an Iraqi friend who endured the first few years of the American occupation with his family in Baghdad.

More information, registration and tickets are here: Breaking Through Power. Please let me know if you can attend. As a further incentive the Mets are in town the first part of that week and I’ll buy the beer and hot dogs* 😉

An essay Ralph recently published on the motivations and purposes behind the conference can be found at Counterpunch.

*So long as the beer is non-alcoholic and the hot dogs are vegan. Ah sobriety and veganism you are the wretched twin children of boredom and lameness…

The Straw that Stirs the Drink: The Implications of Resurgent Religion for Strategists and Policy Makers

For those so inclined this is one of the more insightful perspectives on religion in diplomatic and military world affairs I have read.

By the way, I read Padre Steve’s take on world affairs, history, veterans issues, religion and baseball daily.

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am being published in the most recent issue of Campaigning: The Journal of the Joint Forces Staff College. The article will be available along with the rest of the journal at the website of the college, but I am posting it here. It is an interesting topic since religion is raising its head in numerous conflicts around the world, and is a very real part of the contemporary American political climate. Note, the pictures are not included in the Campaigning issue.

I hope that you enjoy.

Peace

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One can never separate war and the means by which it is fought from its political ends. There are, however, many societies whose language and religious ideology shape the leader’s political ends. To borrow the immortal words of legendary baseball slugger Reggie Jackson, religion is often “the straw that stirs the drink.” The fact that…

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Remembering Rachel Corrie: Letters from Palestine.

In my photos section you will see the armored bulldozers we used in Iraq. The largest bulldozers (D9s, weighing over 60 tons each with their armor) we borrowed from Israel. I wonder if any of the armored bulldozers I used in Iraq killed Rachel three years previously in Palestine?

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Rachel Corrie was an American peace activist and a member of the International Solidarity Movement. She was killed in 2003 (at the age of 23), by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) armored bulldozer in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, during the height of the second Palestinian intifada.

After her death, Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner edited and directed the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, based on Corrie’s diaries and e-mails home. The play was censored (put off stage) several times by some theaters. “Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard,” Rickman said then.

In his article for The Independent Robert Fisk wrote:

“An American heroine, Rachel earned no brownie points from the Bush administration which bangs on about courage…

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Talk on Moral Injury and PTSD

From a talk I gave to the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina in October on my own issues with PTSD, depression, moral injury, alcohol abuse and suicidality. Please feel free to share this video with others. Other men and women sharing their stories with me has helped in my recovery and I want to do my part and pass that kind of assistance along.

Prior to giving this talk, as I was driving to the conference and walking into the venue, I planned on drinking as soon as I was done. Not just a few beers to watch my Mets play the Dodgers in the playoffs, but a medicinal drowning and extinguishment of that all too familiar, exhausting and debilitating anguish in my head, heart and soul. When I was finished with my talk, although tired, the plan was still there. I drove to a bar, got out of my car, and walked to the bar door. My desire, at that moment, not to be a liar was stronger than my need to drink, and I got back in my car and drove home.

From watching the video I doubt you can tell the pain I was in during this talk, an emotional, existential pain, unlike any known physical pain, and a sort of pain that seems to have no hope or end to it. It is as if a wedge or filter is placed into my head, not allowing me to access the functional, rational, more evolutionary modern parts of my brain. I am living in the poisonous fog that William Styron so masterfully articulated in his Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness;  a book that I can’t recommend enough to help friends and family understand how such mental pain and torment seems inescapable and unending, and drives otherwise very strong men and women to levels of despair that self-euthanizing becomes, in that ill and pained mind, a prudent, practical and necessary option.

My greatest gratitude to my good friend John Shuford who organized this talk and provided me with the video. I hope, in the future, to provide more information on an initiative John is working on to provide greater clinical training to therapists assisting veterans with combat related issues of PTSD, moral injury, depression, alcohol abuse and suicidality.

[Note: The introduction to the video gives a bit of a distorted summary of my career. You can find a professional biography on the About Me page of this blog. Not that it really matters though, as Babe Ruth said: “yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s ball games”]

 

Gallery Added

I have added a gallery of photos to help describe how I have gotten to this point. Writing out the captions was a great help to me and, hopefully, it will allow my friends and family to understand why I am as I am. I hope, too, that strangers may find the photos helpful as well, either to understand themselves or a loved one better, or just to receive the testimony and witness I want those photos to portray for those who have suffered in these wars.

What continues to strike me, a couple of days after I have posted these photos, is that these photos represent just a tiny percentage of my experiences and, more importantly, an amazingly small cross section of the lives changed, afflicted and destroyed by war.

You can find the photos, over 300 of them, by scrolling down to the right.