Saturday, August 11, 2007


I heard Nancy Pelosi this morning. 'She said that the whole point of the military surge, is to bring forth a peaceful political process. But the Iraqi government seems to be disbanding, desite reports that the military part of the surge is having some success. We can't just stay indefinitely using only military means, since the whole point of the surge was to bring the Democratic government to the table. Are we supposed to stay there forever, providing a virtual police state? The cost to our troops and to our nation is too great.

The following two articles will blow you away. I am a symphony lover and grew up in a family of musicians. I wanted to see if Iraq had a symphony and if there were any signs of hope in Iraq at all. So I Googled "Symphony in Iraq: and here's what I found from this amazing journalist embedded in Iraq. God Bless Terry McCarthy. He also wrote a bizarre and astounding article below called "Prints of War" You will not believe it. In addition, he did an interview last week with Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki, and was shocked at how "dead" Maliki's spirit seems to be.

SYMPHONY OF HOPE by Terry McCarthy of ABC News

July 26, 2007 6:23 PM

We look hard for signs of hope in Iraq. And so we were pleasantly surprised when we went to a music festival in Erbil -- about 300 Iraqi musicians and dancers had been flown in to the northern city, and were given the run of an enormous performing arts center, courtesy of a grant from the US government. On hand were nine American music and dance teachers, who were giving classes on such subjects as Baroque keyboard technique, hip hop dancing and contemporary jazz. It was fun to see the Iraqi musicians soaking it all in. For 10 days, in the relative safety of Kurdistan, they got to act like most musicians in the rest of the world who don’t have car bombs and gunshots constantly disturbing their sense of harmony.

Michael, the hip-hop teacher, was from Texas and very extroverted -- the young Kurds who wanted to learn hip-hop quickly lost all their shyness and inhibitions in the face of his antics. His first task -- to update their musical knowledge. They had been downloading most of their music on their cell phones, which Michael thought was cool -- until he heard it. “There is a definite time lag,” he said. “I had an argument about it yesterday. They still feel Michael Jackson is the King of Pop.” Once that issue was settled, he began teaching them a robocop dance routine. They loved it.

Other inhibitions melted away. Iraq is in the midst of a bitter sectarian conflict, and today people are usually very slow to socialize outside their own group -- it is a simple matter of safety. At the festival there were Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Kurds and Arabs, flown or driven in from all over the country. On the first day the organizers noted that people pretty much stuck to their own cliques when they sat down for lunch or gathered in the hallways. But after about 24 hours thrown together in class rooms and the concert hall, religious and ethnic differences began to be pushed aside, as the musicians and dancers found common interest in their craft.

By the end of the festival they had put together what they called a “Unity Orchestra”, made up of musicians from various cities around Iraq, who were to give a performance on the final evening to an invited audience. A conductor from Baghdad, Mohammed Amin, said the whole point was “to show that we are still here, that there is still hope for Iraq”.

The music festival in Erbil reinforced my sense that, if they are given a modicum of security, Iraqis can lay aside their differences fairly quickly. In the context of today’s violence, provoked by some very vicious extremists, that is a pretty massive “if”. But as the conductor says, the moderate, non-extremist, non-sectarian majority of Iraqis is still here. And so, there is still hope.


July 31, 2007 2:30 PM

Some time ago a good friend, Chris Morris, a photographer for TIME magazine, told me how he had been traveling through Somalia during the bad days there and had come across a makeshift medical station in an abandoned house north of the capital Mogadishu. There was one doctor, an English-speaking Somali surgeon, who was dealing with a large number of wounded civilians and soldiers who had been brought there from the fighting further south. His equipment was rudimentary – a small number of scalpels and forceps, not many drugs, a wooden table on which he was operating.

Chris, with a photographer’s eye, noticed that the whitewashed walls of the room where the operations were carried out had been decorated with red palm prints. He shot a few frames, and asked about the significance of the designs. The doctor was blunt. There was no water in the building, and he had no latex gloves, so the only way to get the blood off his hands after each operation was to slap them against the wall, before moving on to the next patient.

That image stayed with me, and it popped back into my mind today during a conversation I had with an Iraqi surgeon who has become a good friend to the ABC bureau here, Dr Jamal Taha. Dr Jamal works in the ER of Yarmuk Hospital, one of the busiest in Baghdad, and over the last four years he has seen an unimaginable array of human suffering – gunshot victims, carbomb survivors, victims of torture – and many dead bodies. We talk to him frequently, and he has become a bellwether for us on the level of violence on the streets. He sees the effects first.

I asked him today about supplies of drugs and medical equipment for his hospital – there has been some news recently about how corrupt officials in the ministry of health here have been diverting drugs from hospitals onto the black market to make profit for themselves. Dr Jamal said yes, there was a shortage of drugs, but that wasn’t the worst of his problems. “Many times,” he said, “we have to delay our operations because there is no tap water to wash our hands.”

History repeats itself, often for the worse. The movie “Blackhawk Down” about the war in Somalia starts with a quote from the Greek philosopher, Plato: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Iraqis understand that with a tragic sense of the inevitable.

And they desperately need running water in Yarmuk hospital.

ABC News' Terry McCarthy has been reporting on war, peace, and everything in between from all around the world for 20 years. He writes about daily life in the areas he is reporting from.ABC News

"No water, no eat, no everything," Symphony conductor al-Ghazali says. "And we think it's the end of life on the Earth. But we say, 'Hamdallah, we can do the new life.'"