Two Saturdays off. My husband and I went out to California the first Saturday and it was a vacation. That was planned. I had intended to write last Saturday, but when we got back here, Elaine and Wally were staying with us. We ended up telling them, Mike and our youngest daughter about the trip and then a couple my husband and I are very good friends with (we're the godparents of their son Tony who is our son Mike's best friend) came over to take us out to eat so Saturday just slipped passed me.
At C.I.'s there were hundreds of people (and thank you to C.I. again for having us as guests). In the evenings, guests are over and you also have Ava, Jess, Ty, Jim and Dona as houseguests for the rest of the summer. The house is alive with activity and commotion most hours and, this being the first vacation we'd ever taken without our children, we spent some time talking about how it's just our two youngest still at home and soon they'll be leaving. Mike's the seventh of our eight kids. We've never had a quiet home. It's quiet now compared to the way it used to be and, shortly, it will probably be quieter.
When the house was full, I used to think, "One day it will be quieter." Now that day's staring me in the face and I'm thinking, "Maybe we should have had one more." For the record, any child who wanted to move back in could. We've made that clear to everyone. That's not "and pay rent." This is their home. It's paid for. They'd be coming back as adults. But they won't and they have their own lives which is fine. But shortly, it will be just my husband and myself in the house which is probably too big for just the two of us.
The vacation was wonderful. We also went to Mexico for Rebecca's wedding which was a beautiful wedding. So we saw California and Mexico and with no children to watch or supervise. It was truly a vacation.
This week, Betty called because her children had been sick and, as soon as they were better, she did the Mom thing I've done many times myself which was panic. When it's going on, you don't have time to. You're dealing with each kid and spread so thin that you're focused only on what you can do, there's no time for contemplating. Then, when the moment passes, you suddenly start worrying about what could have happened or might have happened and then second guessing yourself.
I remember those days. They are tiring. But, looking back, they are also good moments too. I told Betty to just run with it. It's her body and mind coming down from the crisis, but remember that the kids are fine now. (She has three wonderful kids, by the way. We saw them again when we were all in Mexico and her boys have grown so much since last time. Her daughter should be in commercials. Betty says she looks just Betty's grandmother.)
So this week, we've had Wally who greets us with we were on vacation of he would've asked us before coming to stay. That is Wally. He's the most adult college student you'll ever know and his mother will tell you he was like that as a child. (His father passed away when Wally was very young -- in a car accident that Wally was also in -- and that probably effected his outlook and his sense of responsibility. We both, his mother and I, think he needs to do some kid things. He's got the adult down pat.)
Wally's a wonderful house guest except for one thing -- he won't stop doing. I tell myself that I'll do whatever the next day. The next day, Wally's done it. Mike's got his job in the morning's and school in the afternoon so Wally says it's something to do. It is appreciated (and there's no need to follow up because, to be honest, his cleaning standards are higher than my own). By all of us. My husband can't believe, for instance, that the garage he's been meaning to paint all summer and bought the paint for, was painted this week (painted by Wally). I asked his mother, "Does he ever sleep in?" And she told me she can't remember a day when Wally hasn't been the first one up.
Elaine's coming over on the weekends to attend the discussion group on Iraq and she's more than welcome. I see her as more than a friend. I do have to tell my husband, "One hour!" He loves it when she visits because she may be one of the few people who can talk music with him over and over, hour after hour. (Mike can as well and there have been several evenings where I've told Wally, "Come on, we'll go out and do something.")
I have to mention Kat's place because we went by it a few times when we were in California, went by with Ty to water plants. We weren't really doing that. Kat laughed when I told her how excited my husband was by her vinyl collection. He thinks so highly of Kat because, like him, she has all of her vinyl albums in plastic sleeves. (Kat was in Ireland during this time. If she hand't been, we might still be in California because if my husband and Kat had pulled out just their favorites to play, we'd probably be there until Labor Day.)
So let me do the recipe for this weekend. It's summer and I'm catching up on the e-mails. Cheryl voiced what a lot of people are saying: "I'm surrounded by vegetables!" That's summer for you.
Most people have either grown squash, picked it up at their local market or had family or friends drop some off. What I'm reading in the e-mails is "yellow squash." While we were in California, a friend of C.I.'s dropped off several paper grocery sacks of squash.
We were wondering what would be done with all that squash and then Jess saw them. His whole family is vegetarian and he knew several recipes including a stew that I'll be happy to share if people are interested in that right now. (I hestitate to go with that because I'm assuming, with the heat, most people don't want to do cooking, even when it's easy. If I'm wrong, let me know and I'll offer it next weekend.)
4 squash sliced in thin circles
4 zucchini's sliced the same
3 ripe tomatoes sliced lenghtwise then cut in half each slice
two 7 ounce cans of sliced mushrooms*
margarine to grease a casserole dish plus one teaspoon
a dash of oregeno (dried)
a dash of basil (dried)
a dash of pepper
chesse (of choice) to sprinkle with
Grease a casserole dish with butter. Add the squash, mushrooms, zucchini and one tea spoon of margarine to the casserole dish. Sprinkle with oregeno, basil and pepper. Cover the dish (if you don't have a cover for it, use a paper towel or wax paper) and microwave for eight minutes.
Remove the dish, add the tomatoes and mix well. Sprinkle with cheese on top. If you're using real cheese, Jess used mozarella because that's what C.I. had in the fridge, microwave for two minutes (or until the cheese is melted to your taste). If you're using parmesian cheese that's flakes from one of those cannisters, microwave no more than two minutes.
The dish is done. Jess used the canned mushrooms because they were already there in C.I.'s kitchen. You can use fresh mushrooms as well. If you do, you'll need to add at least a teaspoon of margarine before cooking in the microwave.
It's quick, it's nutrious and it tastes great. I'm calling it "Jess' Summer Vegetable Blend."
I'm running late, Elaine, my daughter and I are going to the bookstore so I'll end with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, August 4, 2006 and one of the locations is only a surprise to those not paying attention to yesterday's (US) Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. There was a key section that was apparently missed by several. Mosul's one of today's hot spots so let's draw back to this exchange from yesterday's hearing:
Senator John McCain: So, General Abizaid, we're moving 7,500 troops into Baghdad, is that correct?
General John Abizaid: The number is closer to 3,500.
[. . .]
McCain: And where are these troops coming from?
Abizaid: Uh, the troops, the Styker Brigade, is coming down from Mosul.
McCain: From Mosul? Is the situation under control in Ramadi?
Abizaid: Uh, the situation in Ramadi, is better than it was two months ago.
McCain: Is the situation under control in Ramadi?
Abizaid: I think the situation in Ramadi is workable.
McCain: And the troops from Ramadi came from Falluja, isn't that correct?
Abizaid: I can't say senator, I know that --
McCain: Well that's my information. What I' worry about is we're playing a game of whack-a-mole here. We move troops from -- It flares up, we move troops there. Everybody knows we've got big problems in Ramadi and I said, "Where you gonna get the troops?" 'Well we're going to have to move them from Falluja.' Now we're going to have to move troops into Baghdad from someplace else. It's very disturbing.
A transcript of this (Congressional Quarterly) can be found at the Washington Post. For audio of the above (most), check out Leigh Ann Caldwell's report which aired on Thursday's The KPFA Evening News and Free Speech Radio News.
Mosul? That's where the 172nd Stryker Brigade (scheduled to be back home before their year deployment got four additional months added to is) was pulled from, Abizaid testified. Reuters is reporting: "Heavily armed insurgents battled U.S. and Iraqi troops in the restive northern city of Mosul on Friday where at least four policemen, including a top officer and four militants were reported killed."
That is the "strategy" (being generous) and it's the very point McCain was making yesterday. (McCain generally uses that type of observation to support adding more troops to the slaughter, I believe the troops themselves add to the conflict.) The exchange was not heavily stressed in most reporting but McCain was outlining what currently passes for "strategy" in Iraq -- a "strategy" that once again (always) blew up in the military geniuses' (and the administration's) faces.
BBC notes that the US announced last week the withdrawal of 5,000 troops "to re-deploy them in the capital, Baghdad". AP places the figure at 3,500. China's Xinhua notes that "Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, has been a bastion of insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003." Reuters reports that, in Mosul, "authorities have ordered everyone off the streets until Saturday and closed the city's bridges across the Tigris river."
AFP notes that, today, "Mosul woke to a dawn blitz of six bombs and a hail of mortars which killed at least nine police officers and triggered a six-hour gunbattle in which an unknown number of insurgents were killed." One bomb, Reuters notes, resulted in the deaths of "police Colonel Jassim Muhammad Bilal and two bodyguards". The Times of London estimates that, in Mosul alone, 24 people died today from car bombs of various kind.
AFP reports a man was shot dead in Amara. The Associated Press reports that two police officers were shot dead in Falluja and describes one of the incidents: "armed men attacked several government buildings and police patrols in central Fallujah at about 8:30 s.m. (0430 GMT), leaving a policeman dead and two others wounded".
AFP notes that a couple enroute to a hospital in Baquba for the impending birth of their child were killed by a roadside bomb (cab driver and mother-to-be's sister were wounded) and that, in Baghdad, a civilian was killed by a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol. Reuters reports that a bombing in Hadhar, during a football game, resulted in 10 dead and 12 wounded. A police officer described the attack ("suicide car bomber") to the AFP: "He drove into the police guarding the pitch, and blew up." KUNA notes of the attack on the football game: "the football field was for the use of Hadhar policemen and police department staff only."
CBS and AP notes one corpse was discovered (in the country). AFP notes the interior ministry declared twelve corpses were discovered in Baghdad. The AP notes that six corpses were found in Kut with "four of them decapitated".
In court news, prosecutor/Captain Joseph Mackey delivered his closing argument in the Article 32 hearing of Corey Clagett, William Hunsaker, Raymond Girouard and Juston Graber, who stand accused in the May 9th deaths of three Iraqis. Mackey argued that the three Iraqis were not killed while trying to escape but had, instead, been released by the four US troops and then killed by them, "For this they are not war heroes, they are war criminals. And justice states that they face trial." As Reuters notes, all four accused elected not to provide testimony to hearing (the military equivalent of a grand jury).
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco continues. Eleanor Hall and Conor Duffy discussed the latest development's on The World Today (Australia's ABC) noting that "military standing orders" were not followed with the transportation of Jake Kovco's body (contractors with Kenyon International were used instead) and that, while the Australian government alleges this was for speed, Jake Kovco's roommates say it was due "to cost and they told the inquiry that they thought that if it had been a foreign dignitary or even a more senior officer, that military aircraft and US military morgue would have been used throughout the whole procedure."
For anyone arriving late to this story and wondering why Kovco's destination back to Australia matters, Kovco's body was somehow switched and the body of Bosnian Juso Sinanovic was sent to Australia while Kovco's body remained at the motuary. AAP notes that Alastar Adams ("first secretary at the Australian Embassy in Kuwait") testified that "he had not checked the photo against the corpse of a Bosnian carpenter . . . he had taken a quick look . . . told the mortuary staff they could close the coffin and stamp it with the embassy's official seal."
The AAP also notes the following which appears to back up Kovco's roommates' judgement: ". . . air force warrant officer Chris Hunter told the inquiry he believed the body mix-up could have been prevented if the civilian morgue had not been used. He said Pte Kovco's body was transferred from a professional and clean mortuary facility in Baghdad run by US troops to a rund-down morgue remsembling 'a third world country hospital'. WO Hunter stopped eight of PTE Kovco's soldier mates, who had accompanied the boday as a bearer party, from entering the morgue, fearing they might start a riot upon noticing its condition."
In court news in the United States, the Justice Department is announcing that Faheem Mousa Salam "has pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by offering to bribe an Iraqi police official" at the start of this year by offering "approximately $60,000 in exchange for . . . [help] facilitating the sale of approximately 1,000 armored vests and a sophisticated map printer for approximately $1 million." Though the Justice Department fails to note it, he was then employed by Titan Corporation.
In peace news, Phil Runkel is in "a federal courtroom in Alexandria" today facing "a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of $5,000 for his war protest last March" reports Dennis Shook for WisPolitics.com. Runkel and other peace activists (51 in total) were arrested March 20th in front of the Pentagon. Brian Huber (GM Today) notes that the activists were wanting to meet with Donald Rumsfeld and that some climbed or went "under a temporary fence that Runkel said was erected to stop them, resulting in their arrests."
Activists on the CODEPINK and Global Exchange sponsored trip to Amman, Jordan --including Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright, Medea Benjamin, Tom Hayden and Diane Wilson -- have arrived in Amman. Cindy Sheehan (Truth Out) reports: "The most horrifying testimony of the day was when we met with "Dr. Nada," an Iraqi doctor who stayed in Baghdad to help her people during the sanctions and the invasion. She didn't abandon her country, or sell it out like many privileged people who exited during the Baathist regime (like Iyad Allawi or Ahmed Chalabi) or the sanctions ... which she, as a supervisory physician at a major Baghdad hospital, said killed two million children. The children died of pollution and sicknesses from depleted uranium during the first gulf mistake of George the First. The babies died because of the war, but also because there is no medicine and very limited medical facilities to treat them. Dr. Nada brought the daughter of a friend, three-year-old Farrah, who had short brown hair and big brown eyes. There were so many young children playing in Queen airport yesterday when I got here and dozens running around the hotel. My heart almost bursts with sorrow when I think of all of the children in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan who have had such horrible lives and had many of their lives cut short by the evil war machine that seems to be running our world."
The Troops Home Fast continues ("We will keep the fast going until September 21, International Peace Day, when there will be a week of mass actions against the war")
with at least 4,350 people participating from around the world on the 32nd day since the action began. Some are fasting long-term, some are grabbing a one-day, one-time fast, some are grabbing a one-day fast each week. More information can be found at Troops Home Fast.
Finally, Michelle Tan (Army Times) reports that Ehren Watada will likely face an Article 32 hearing August 17th because Eric Seitz's pretrial offer of a "reprimand, fine and reduction of rank" has not yet been accepted. As noted before, this offer was twice refused. Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org are calling for a "National Day of Education" on August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada would be due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."