5-13-2004 Rebar: If you build it, they will come

I am beat. A little heads-up. If I post somewhat sporadically for a spell, do not write anything into the slower pace. Work has been getting completely nuts as of late and I've got volunteer stuff to do, grandkids to chauffer around and a block party to plan for.

Take today for example. I worked all day. Then I hooked up with you know who to mow the grass on the median strip in the middle of Penn Avenue that we adopted. Then it was off to Kirby Park to see the rebar field. The rebar spikes will support the Healing Field flags a few short hours from now. And then, we here on Thompson Street held our first planning meeting for the 15th Annual Thompson Street block party. 15 freakin' years! Pretty neat. A tradition of sorts up here in the Nord End.

As always, we're hoping to make this year's block party the very best ever and we've also got some nifty new ideas up our sleeves. The first order of business was to settle on the date of the affair and it has been narrowed down to either August 14, or August 21. It might even be set in stone as early as tomorrow. I'll let ya' know as soon as I hear something.

One thing. The giant tent will from here on out be a staple of the event. Those of you that sat home and did nothing of note last year as 3 inches of rain fell on the Nord End can rest assured that the party will go down no matter what the skies decide to do. We're also hiring a cook this year so that the natives of the street won't be saddled with flipping burgers and they'll be able to mingle all night long. And yes, the numerous requests for some polka music will be honored this year. I'll live. Yuk.

We're also looking at a dunk tank, an ice cream stand, etc. etc., as a way of making the 15th installment of the block party the biggest and bestest ever. And as always, we need mucho prizes for the winners of the never ending contests and we need the majority of them donated by local businesses. If you're interested in donating anything, drop me a line. We always make sure the folks that donate anything get a good plug provided that the DJ is still somewhat sober. No, but seriously, we encourage the freebies and they are greatly appreciated by the entire crew and our throng of guests.

Can you say "party?" Soon enough.

Yeah, so Larry and I attacked the grass on the median and then headed for Kirby Park to take in the enormity of the rebar field, soon to be the Healing Field.

It really looks strange at this point. It looks as if a few Roman legions faced-off against the invading hordes and after the mighty battle, all that remained was the arrows of the now deceased archers stuck in the field of battle. It is taped off, but I'd hate to wander through there drunk as a skunk after dark. Being impaled virtually from head to toe would have to suck.

Saturday should be quite the event. All those flags honoring all of those innocent people who would have preferred to never need to be honored in the first place. The folks who met an untimely end on 9/11 and the folks who answered the call to defend our country since. Once those flags are being delivered to Kirby Park and keep on coming and coming and coming and coming, it should be interesting to see just how much of an emotional impact it has on those in attendance. I imagine it might be akin to standing in front of the Vietnam Memorial and simply being overwhelmed by the overall size of the memorial. It's one thing to note that 58,000 died in Vietnam, but it's another thing to see the names displayed in front of you that seemingly run on from here to the outer layer of the galaxy.

On Saturday, we're going to see firsthand how having 4,000 flags neatly paraded and displayed looks like. And all of those flags honor thousands of individuals that should still be with us.


More Rebar

From the e-mail inbox:

*******Hi Mark,

I couldn't agree more, we need all of the people we can get to participate in Saturday's parade. On Monday, at my son's baseball game, his coach (Bill Amesbury) invited all of the boy's to participate. He said "You have to opportunity to be part of a once in a lifetime, historical event". Ain't it the truth. I hear that the Secret Service has been in town all week making sure that the whackos stay at bay. The parade and ceremonies will be an eye-opening, tear jerking event.

Hope to see you there!


You will, if we can see anything at all through that sea of flags. This will be one of those events that we can brag "I was there" about for years on end.

U.S. atrocities in Iraq

Walter E. Williams

May 12, 2004

Itís the end of the semester at George Mason University, and for the past couple of weeks, Iíve been too busy preparing final exam harassment for my students to pay much attention to all the news stories about how U.S. soldiers were torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Now that my spring semesterís work has just about been completed, I decided to bring myself up to speed on these American atrocities.

I braced myself for the worst. Part of my 1959 Fort Jackson, S.C., basic training involved lessons on evasion and escape. Our drill sergeant, who had fought in the Korean War, told us about how North Koreans tortured American prisoners of war. His graphic descriptions gave us added incentive to pay attention to what we were being taught about evasion and escape.

Remembering his graphic descriptions, and given the worldwide condemnation of our soldiers, I was prepared to see pictures of American soldiers engaged in atrocities such as: eye gouging, piercing of prisoners' hands and knees with electric drills, beating soles of prisoners' feet, cigarette burns, fingernail extraction, whipping and placing prisoners in acid baths. I also thought I might see pictures of Iraqis looking like the diseased and starved World War II American prisoners of the Japanese who were brutally marched from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell. When they were liberated from Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, many didnít weigh much over 100 pounds, if that.

Much to my surprise, I saw none of this. What I saw in no way could be described as torture or atrocities, at least if we stick to historical definitions of torture and atrocities. Among the pictures I saw were: Pfc. Lynndie England with a dog leash tied to a naked Iraqi. Iraqi prisoners forced to parade naked before their jeering captors. Two American soldiers -- a male and a female -- forcing a group of Iraqi prisoners into simulating group sex. An American female soldier playing with two naked Iraqi captives. A British soldier urinating on an Iraqi prisoner. Of the pictures I saw, the worst acts shown were an Iraqi woman being gang-raped and an American soldier putting a rifle butt to an Iraqi prisoner's groin.

These acts arenít anything that Americans should be proud of, but at the same time, they donít qualify as torture and atrocities so far as those terms have been historically defined. Moreover, they are mild in comparison to the kind of prison treatment to which Iraqis have become accustomed.

Before we condemn our soldiers too much, we might consider that this war is the most humane war ever fought. In toppling the Saddam Hussein regime, there were relatively few non-combatant casualties. Afterward, our troops and American and foreign civilians went to great lengths to begin to rebuild the country, and much of that rebuilding has little to do with what was destroyed in war.

How has this unprecedented effort been rewarded? Our soldiers have been ambushed and murdered by Hussein holdouts and Muslim fanatics. American and foreign civilians have been brutally murdered and their corpses treated in unspeakable ways -- and all of this to the glee of large Iraqi mobs. We should keep in mind that our soldiers are humans. I think itís understandable that they might want revenge against perpetrators whoíve been involved with the murder and maiming of their comrades.

Donít get me wrong about this. Their actions are not to be condoned. But if President Bush and Congress want to know whether our soldiersí actions constitute torture, I suggest they ask former American Japanese POWs or, better yet, ask former Hanoi Hilton resident Sen. John McCain.

By the way, if our soldiers are to be court-martialed for anything, it should be for stupidity -- stupidity of permitting photos to be taken of what they were doing.


Boy! Did the media drop the Berg execution story like a hot coal or what? Sure as hell did. They had to get right back to the Iraqi prisoner abuse flap and try to further damage the president during a time of war. Some shameful, partisan and misguided buusp*t for sure.

This is where I spent my afternoon today.

Gotta cut this short. I'm tired, it's getting late and my body is somewhat pissed at me for what I constantly put it through.