That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.  – Malcolm X

"We must never, ever give up. We must be brave. We must be courageous." John Lewis, activist, congressman. 1940-2020 

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."  Professor Cornel West.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat."  Audre Lorde

"The serious function of racism is distraction". 1995, Toni Morrison; Portland lecture, Playing in The Dark

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.” Nora Ephron

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

"We are more alike than we are different" ~ Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singe


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain


You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore


 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:


"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.


Fallujah1, Fallujah2,Fallujah3


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

For over a month I’ve been trying to write about Fallujah. It’s an attempt to gain a grip on news coming out of Iraq.

This essay began two months ago when the name Fallujah leapt onto US news headlines with stories about al-Qaeda gaining control of what was known as a “restive” city populated by tribes “disloyal” to Iraq’s central government.

Across much of that land, day after day, year after year, Iraqis are being killed, wounded, disheartened and driven out by ferocious bombings and shootings. Somehow, it was only when Fallujah flared up that the world was alerted to real trouble. What can one make of this? Who is really responsible for continuing instability across Iraq? What kind of future can any citizen-- any child or parent or official, anyone at all--expect? It’s been almost 25 years since the cruel UN blockade began a continuous downward spiral of life there.

That January rebellion in Fallujah pointed us to a specific threat. And Washington’s response was swift--a commitment to sell the Iraqi government missiles and other weapons to subdue those rebels. Thereafter Fallujah fell out of the news. Apart from reports by two seasoned Iraq observers, Arbuthnot and Jamail that those US armaments gave the Iraqi prime minster a license to annihilate his opposition and crush the city once and for all, press attention waned.  

Until March 17, two days ago when we hear again about A-Qaeda.  Matt Bradley and Ali Nabhan give a dazzling account in about a former Iraqi loyalist officer now heading those Fallujah rebels.  

Let’s admit it; for most of us Fallujah is largely a mythic entity. Alarm in the US press in January over Fallujah (let’s call it Fallujah 3) was augmented by a marketing campaign by using algorithms to alert anyone tagged as an Iraq observer about resources on Fallujah. For example, I was invited to purchase any number of books about the place. Not about Fallujah’s society and economy or its earlier history:—Fallujah 1. (Fallujah 1 is the unheralded city I passed on my 10-15 hour drive there during Iraq’s 13 years of sanctions with Fallujah’s lights signaling that we were finally nearing Baghdad. Fallujah 1 was a market center of 300,000 inhabitants, a major hub for the surrounding farms, where we stopped for supplies on our return journey across the desert to Jordan.)

No. These titles were about battles, specifically the American war on Fallujah.  Most of eleven books listed are accounts of the once-celebrated 2004 US assault on the city that defines another Fallujah: Fallujah 2. Fallujah 2 is an event belonging to US troops—their personal story of a siege and battle-- and to journalists who used these soldiers and the Pentagon as their main sources.

The Battle of Fallujah’s bloodiness and ferocity is mainly associated with the deaths of 450 or so Americans killed there. Not with the tens of thousands of Iraqi victims. That battle, 18 months into US occupation when Iraqi resistance emerged, was a celebrated US military victory. The alleged “subjugation of a key Iraqi city” was, we were informed, a turning point in America’s war in Iraq.

Simultaneously another account about Fallujah did not make world headlines. This was Fallujah 2b. This story is amply documented by the Italian RAI TV film Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre and a book by the highly regarded Al-Jazeera correspondent Ahmed Mansour. Mansour’s "Inside Fallujah,The Unembedded Story" (not included in the 2014 list) is further corroborated by two capable journalists also on the scene at the time—Dahr Jamail and Rahul Mahajan. 

Fallujah 2b is a very ugly and very different portrait of that Fallujah battle, a picture that during the past decade has been enhanced with health reports of Fallujah’s residents. Multiple studies confirm they continue to die and suffer from diseases caused by chemical weapons and other deadly projectiles fired on them. See for example Patrick Cockburn’s 2010 summary.

One cannot help but wonder if the fierce resistance of the people of Fallujah and their reported embrace of the notorious al-Qaeda today is not somehow an outcome of their suffering and injustice stemming from the 2004 U.S. assault and brutality experienced at the hands of American troops. There is sufficient documentation of that infamy that it must be part of any discussion of Fallujah today. The US military may have battled Fallujah and quelled that 2004 rebellion. But that these people were subjugated? It seems not.

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