Newfoundland Town Mourns Hero

Cpl Jamie Brendan Murphy, 26, died in Afghanistan just a week before he was scheduled to return home.

Military personnel knocked on the Murphy family’s door at 5 a.m. to tell them their son had been killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Hours later, members of the Murphy family gathered at their parents’ home in Conception Harbour, a town of 900 in eastern Newfoundland.

“It’s like we’re talking about somebody else,” said Rosemary Ryan, one of Jamie Murphy’s three siblings. “We just can’t believe this is our brother. It’s hard to believe.” His sister Norma Murphy called him “the perfect brother” and questioned the Canadian mission that led to his death. “They’re over there trying to keep peace for people who don’t want it,” she said during an emotional interview with CBC Newsworld. “I don’t think it’s fair. I didn’t want him over there in the first place.”Read more

Iraq, Bechtel & water

Take a two day trip with Dahr Jamail, a freelance journalist from Alaska, as he collects data on the present state of the water infrastructure in Iraq. Some excerpts:

Hilla, right near Babylon, has a water treatment plant and distribution center that is managed by Salmam Hassan Kadel, who is also the Chief Engineer. The wastewater project here, like in Najaf and Diwaniya, is specifically named on Bechtel’s contract as one that they are responsible for rehabilitating. They have had no contact from Bechtel, or a subcontractor of said. “We have had no change since the American’s came here. We know Bechtel is wasting money, but we can’t prove it.”

At another small village between Hilla and Najaf, 1500 people are drinking water from a dirty stream which slowly trickles near the homes. Everyone has dysentery, many with kidney stones, a huge number with cholera. One of the men, holding a sick child, tells me, “It was much better before the invasion. We had 24 hours running water then. Now we are drinking this garbage because it is all we have.” A little further down the road at a village of 6000 homes called Abu Hidari, it is more of the same…8 children from the village have been killed when attempting to cross the busy highway to a nearby factory in order to retrieve clean water.

In Diwaniya, and each of the 5 other villages I visited the story is the same. Change the names of the people and the names of the city/village, and we find cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, nausea, less than 8 hours of electricity per day, contaminated water (or no water), and everyone is suffering.

Mr. Mehdi is an engineer and Assistant Manager at the Najaf water distribution center. With help from Red Cross and the Spanish Army, they are doing some of the rebuilding on their own. He says that Bechtel started one month ago; painting buildings, cleaning and repairing storage tanks and repairing and replacing sand filters. This is the only project he knows of that Bechtel has been working on in Najaf. There has been no work on desalinization, which is critical in this area, or other purification processes. He states, “Bechtel is repairing some water facilities, but not improving the electricity, which is their responsibility.”

I ask him if he thinks Bechtel can meet their contractual obligation of restoring potable water supply in all of the urban centers of Iraq by April 17th, and he laughs. He tells me at least 30% of Najaf doesn’t have clean water simply because of lack of electricity.

“No occupation ever makes things good for the people. All the people in the world must know the American’s are here just to help Mr. Bush win this next election.” — Mr. Hassan Mehdi Mohammed, an Iraqi villager.

Day I – Baghdad to Babylon
Day II – Water, Sickness & A Brewing Storm

In Case You Missed Them

….here are some great stories from links stuck near the bottom of the front page of

Anti-US Tunes Big Hits in Iraq:

The story is a bit frightening. Some of the lyrics call for continued resistance:

“The men of Fallujah are men of hard tasks,” Mr. al-Jenabi sings in a dialect decipherable only to people in the Sunni Muslim heartland cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. “They paralyzed America with rocket-propelled grenades. May God protect them from [U.S.] airplanes.”

Despite the fact that, as Dan Senor, a spokesman for the coalition points out “any sort of public expression used in an institutionalized sense that would incite violence against the coalition or Iraqis,” the cassettes and CDs are selling well.

Iraq’s Dinar Gives Greenback a Run for Its Money:

The new “Bremer dinar” — recently made the official fiat currency of Iraq — has become quite popular, especially with respect to the U.S. dollar. The huge influx of U.S. dollars has had little effect on those demanding dinars:

Ahmad Salman Jaburi, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, said last week that “this indicates that people are demanding the Iraqi currency, which is really flattering for us … This is now a currency that people want to hold.”

Cheney ‘Waged Guerrilla War’ on Blair Attempt to Get UN in on Iraq

A new biography of Tony Blair claims that

Mr Cheney’s opposition to UN involvement left Mr Blair uncertain whether Mr Bush would go down the UN route until he uttered the relevant words in his speech to the UN general assembly in September 2002. One Blair aide remarked: “[Mr Cheney] waged a guerrilla war against the process . . . He’s a visceral unilateralist”. Another agreed: “Cheney fought it all the way – at every twist and turn, even after Bush’s speech to the UN.”

Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Wool of Bat and Tongue of Dog

Your moment of Zen, courtesy of John Ashcroft:

Weapons of mass destruction, including evil chemistry and evil biology, are all matters of great concern, not only to the United States, but also to the world community.

Think Ashcroft just let that slip? He has already used the phrase at least three times in public:

Sept. 10, 2002:

But we have seen that the terrorist community has done research in biological — evil biology, evil chemistry, in the dispersion of radiological contaminants and the like, and those have been the subject of previous endeavors.

Sept. 11, 2002:

Well, I believe it was this network [CNN] that came forward with something like 60 hours of tape of training, and thousands of individuals that went through the training, and the interest in biological — evil biology and evil chemistry.

Sept. 2, 2003:

I believe that we’ve already found a number of things that are very troublesome. Things that relate to the development of the evil chemistry and evil biology that could be very dangerous to mankind.

What about fundamentalist loons? Do they pose any risk?