Thursday, May 27, 2004

Berg’s father speaks

I am now going off for my very brief summer break. I take with me the words of Michael Berg, father of Nick Berg, the US contractor beheaded on video in Iraq this month by a group believed to be linked to al-Qaida. This is an extract from his message of support for the Stop The War Coalition's demonstration, End the Torture–Bring the Troops Home Now, held in London last week. This was printed in The Guardian on May 21, 2004.

``My son, Nick, was my teacher and my hero. He was the kindest, gentlest man I know; no, the kindest, gentlest human being I have ever known. He quit the Boy Scouts of America because they wanted to teach him to fire a handgun. Nick, too, poured into me the strength I needed, and still need, to tell the world about him.

``People ask me why I focus on putting the blame for my son's tragic and atrocious end on the Bush administration. They ask: ``Don't you blame the five men who killed him?’’ I have answered that I blame them no more or less than the Bush administration, but I am wrong: I am sure, knowing my son, that somewhere during their association with him these men became aware of what an extraordinary man my son was. I take comfort that when they did the awful thing they did, they weren't quite as in to it as they might have been. I am sure that they came to admire him.

``I am sure that the one who wielded the knife felt Nick's breath on his hand and knew that he had a real human being there. I am sure that the others looked into my son's eyes and got at least a glimmer of what the rest of the world sees. And I am sure that these murderers, for just a brief moment, did not like what they were doing.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The beheading

A reader, Ms. Gloria Parillas Earl, sent a letter to the editor (PDI 5/18/04) castigating me for what I said in my column piece (``Taguba’s report on Abu Ghraib’’, PDI 5/13/04) on the abuses--sexual, physical, psychological--committed by U.S. Army personnel against Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison.

She asked: ``Where is Doyo’s disgust over the videotaped beheading of Nick Berg, whose passion for helping others got him into Iraq?’’

Another reader who read the letter promptly wrote to me via email and agreed with Ms. Earl on ``my lacking in courage’’ to condemn. He/she said I ``had written fair and balanced columns generally in the past but you seem, to `lose it’ when it pertains to issues about war and social injustice.’’ Too anti-U.S meddling, too pro-poor?

But a reader from San Francisco reacted to Ms. Earl’s letter by questioning Berg’s presence in Iraq. What he said was not very flattering to the dead.

So early and I was spilling my coffee.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Taguba’s report on Abu Ghraib

I stayed up very late the other night to watch live on CNN the U.S. Senate investigation of the torture committed by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison, with U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba, Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone and Lt. Gen. Lance Smith testifying.

Philippines-born Taguba, a true-brown kayumanggi, is the author of the report that details the shameless acts done to Iraqi detainees by members of the 800th MP Brigade assigned in Abu Ghraib. Gen. Taguba reaped a rain of praises for his no-nonsense report and testimony and for calling intentional abuse intentional abuse.

You must have seen those disgusting photographs that came out starting last week, photographs of naked Iraqi detainees being humiliated, tortured, piled one on top of another like carcass. Being photographed and videotaped while in that humiliated state added to the intensity of the torment. The bad news is that there’s more than what we saw in photos.

How could something like this have happened in this day and age? Yes, Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler do not have the monopoly of evil. Their evil spirit lives on in some U.S. military personnel. If I were an American, I would be red-faced. If I were an American citizen I would write my very own individual letter of apology to the world, to the people of Iraq and to the detainees in Abu Ghraib prison.

Senators, among them Sen. Hillary Clinton, focused on the acts of humiliation and torture detailed on page 16 and 17 of Taguba’s 53-page report. I later downloaded the report from the Internet. Here are those portions that the world ought to read not only for their shock value but also so that people may be forewarned about more 9/11s. This is the very thing that begets hatred.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

The vote of the poor (2)

Last week we shared portions of the findings of the research done by the Ateneo University’s Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC) on how the poor view elections and choose their candidates.

IPC’s ``The Vote of the Poor: The Values and Pragmatics of Elections’’ tries to answer the questions: do the poor produce a ``dumb masa’’ vote? What do the poor think of elections? How do they make their choices? How much influence do the media exert on them? What to them are the traits of a true leader?

IPC used focused groups discussions (FGD) as a tool to get to the raw sentiments and perceptions of the subjects.

Here’s more:

The most important sources of influence in the choice of candidates are: media, family, church, political parties, one’s own (sarili lang/walang nakakaimpluwensiya) and surveys.