31 December, 2007

As predictable as it is crazy-making...

A lot of good people have been planning to say NO G8 2008!

Some of those people do not live in Japan. And, apparently, just about all of my friends and the people I admire and respect are potential "hooligans."

Well, my dear friend Susan sent me the following Yomiuri article, which you can also access here. Those of you who have read Hoshino Tomoyuki's Lonely Hearts Killer may be reminded of some of the old-new laws enacted in that novel.

"Japanese Government to Keep ‘Hooligans’ Away from Summit"
by Yomiuri Shimbun

TOKYO - The Justice Ministry has begun preparations to put into force a hooligan provision of the immigration law to prevent anti-globalization activists from entering the country to protest the Group of Eight summit meeting to be held in Hokkaido in July.

Relevant ministries and agencies will discuss criteria for defining anti-globalization activists, to whom the provision will be applied for the first time, and seek additional information from other countries.

The hooligan provision was added when Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law was revised in 2001 and enforced in 2002 to keep hooligans out of the country for the 2002 World Cup soccer finals.

The provision states immigration authorities can refuse entry to people who have injured, assaulted, threatened or killed people or damaged buildings to disrupt international sports events or meetings.

It also disallows entry to people who have been imprisoned in Japan or other countries or have been deported before if immigration officials believe they might be involved in similar actions again.

Under the provision, 19 hooligans were prohibited from entering the country in 2002. The provision has not been applied in other cases.

Unions and environmental protection groups have often been involved in protests against economic globalization, which activists assert has widened the gaps between rich and poor and harmed the environment.

27 December, 2007

Maybe it starts with mutiny...

Click here for the Democracy Now coverage of the army unit that decided not to follow orders because they feared they would commit massacres.

You can find the original story here.

Dylan Rodriguez is right ...

Police Academy Class Slogan: Cause PTSD

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A state police academy leader has disavowed the slogan of the most recent graduating class urging one another to "go out and cause" post-traumatic stress disorder.

Each class at the Idaho Police Officer Standards and Training Academy is allowed to choose a slogan that is printed on its graduation programs, and the class of 43 graduates came up with "Don't suffer from PTSD, go out and cause it."

According to the Veterans Association, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers suffer from PTSD, which causes nightmares, flashbacks and physical symptoms that make sufferers feel as if they are reliving trauma, even many years later. Crime, accidents and other trauma can cause it in civilians.

Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, who attended the Dec. 14 graduation, pointed out the slogan to the academy's director, Jeff Black, minutes before the ceremony began, Raney said. A photograph of the program was e-mailed anonymously to news outlets throughout the state.

"That's not something we encourage or condone," Black said. "It shouldn't have been there. It was inappropriate."

Black said the class president was ex-military, and that the slogan "slipped in." He declined to identify the graduate. Black said future slogans would be vetted by academy leaders.

26 December, 2007

Don't Forget the Caucus of the Future!

There is another way!

On January 2nd and 3rd, the Caucus of the Future will be held in Des Moines, Iowa at the Drake Legal Clinic at 24th & University (2400 University, Ave.).

Lots of DIY workshops, as well as critical information for activists!

Click on the image below to view a larger version of the flyer.

OUTSTANDING RADIO! Ramsey Kanaan hosts an hour-long program on gentrification!!

Click here to listen to yesterday's "Against the Grain" on KPFA. You don't want to miss the wonderful guest host Ramsey Kanaan's interviews with Dawn Phillips and Gilda Haas.

That is the kind of holiday programming I would like to find everywhere, and it sure is the kind of radio programming I'd like on a daily basis. If you agree, call KPFA at 510-848-6767 ext. 622 or send a message to the station here.

24 December, 2007

Lakota Sioux Delegation Quits the US!

The following report, sent to me by my friend Susan, was published on Friday, December 21, 2007 in the Rapid City Journal (South Dakota).

"Lakota Sioux Secede From US, Declare Independence"
by Bill Harlan

Political activist Russell Means, a founder of the American Indian Movement, says he and other members of Lakota tribes have renounced treaties and are withdrawing from the United States.

“We are now a free country and independent of the United States of America,” Means said in a telephone interview. “This is all completely legal.”

Means said a Lakota delegation on Monday delivered a statement of “unilateral withdrawal” from the United States to the U.S. State Department in Washington.

The State Department did not respond. “That’ll take some time,” Means said.

Meanwhile, the delegation has delivered copies of the letter to the embassies of Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile and South Africa. “We’re asking for recognition,” Means said, adding that Ireland and East Timor are “very interested” in the declaration.

Other countries will get copies of the same declaration, which Means said also would be delivered to the United Nations and to state and county governments covered by treaties, including treaties signed in 1851 and 1868. “We’re willing to negotiate with any American political entity,” Means said.

The United States could face international pressure if it doesn’t agree to negotiate, Means said. “The United State of America is an outlaw nation, we now know. We’ve understood that as a people for 155 years.”

Means also said his group would file liens on property in parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming that were illegally homesteaded.

The Web site for the declaration, “Lakota Freedom,” briefly crashed Thursday as wire services picked up the story and the server was overwhelmed, Means said.

Delegation member Phyllis Young said in an online statement: “We are not trying to embarrass the United States. We are here to continue the struggle for our children and grandchildren.” Young was an organizer of Women of All Red Nations.

Other members of the delegation include Rapid City-area activist Duane Martin Sr. and Gary Rowland, a leader of the Chief Big Foot Riders.

Means said anyone could live in the Lakota Nation, tax free, as long as they renounced their U.S. citizenship. The nation would issue drivers licenses and passports, but each community would be independent. “It will be the epitome of individual liberty, with community control,” Means said.

To make his case, Means cited several articles of the U.S. Constitution, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and a recent nonbinding U.N. resolution on the rights of indigenous people.

He thinks there will be international pressure. “If the U.S. violates the law, the whole world will know it,” Means said.

Means’ group is based in Porcupine on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

It is not an agency or branch of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Means ran unsuccessfully for president of the tribe in 2006.

Lakota tribes have long claimed that the U.S. government stole land guaranteed by treaties — especially in western South Dakota. “The Missouri River is ours, and so are the Black Hills,” Means said.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1980 awarded the tribes $122 million as compensation, but the court did not award land. The Lakota have refused the settlement. (As interest accrues, the unclaimed award is approaching $1 billion.)

In the late 1980s, then-Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey introduced legislation to return federal land to the tribes, and California millionaire Phil Stevens also tried to win support for a proposal to return the Black Hills to the Lakota.

20 December, 2007

I just got Mugendô!!

"The setting might be fantastic, but I think of it as a decidedly realistic novel."
Hoshino Tomoyuki

Listen to Dylan Rodriguez Talk About White Entitlement, the Material Logic of Evil, and Katrina with C.S. Soong

Click here to access the KPFA archived mp3 from yesterday's Against the Grain to hear C.S. Soong's interviews with Azibuike Akaba and Dylan Rodriguez (pictured here).

Prof. Rodriguez discusses his new essay "The Meaning of Disaster Under the Dominance of White Life" (which appears in What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of the Nation) and talks about the need to oppose (and radically oppose) what he calls the "white supremacist animus of the United States of America." He talks about the horrors of Katrina not in terms of bureaucratic failings or even as a conspiracy, but as a "predictable" and "planned atrocity" based on "the normal functioning" of the US nation state. He also discusses the myth of a post-white supremacist age and the ongoing ways in which black citizenship is "absolutely disposable." His discussion of white supremacy as "a logic of phenotype that cuts across class" is something I'm sure many will want to hear. Finally, he makes some very pointed comparisons between the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines and Hurricane Katrina.

The ending is pretty powerful -- check it out!

17 December, 2007

Changes Ahead for the Education Law Association

The presidency of the Education Law Association is an unpaid position. The ELA's mission, according to its website, is

[to bring] together educational and legal scholars and practitioners to inform and advance educational policy and practice through knowledge of the law. Together, our professional community anticipates trends in educational law and supports scholarly research through the highest value print and electronic publications, conferences, seminars, and professional forums.

The current president of the ELA is a partner in Giuliani's law firm. I don't know him.

The president elect is a high school French teacher-turned-administrator at a public school district in Colorado. She is my mom.

At a time when so many public organizations are being led and/or overrun by private interests and corporate models (the for-profit private "manager" of public schools Edison Schools comes to mind), it's heartening to see a counter-example. I'm also very proud of my mom.

Here's the press release. You can click on the image below to view a larger version.

14 December, 2007

Stop the Demolition Coalition

I saw the following Ruckus Society announcement on Carla's blog. For more information on other ways you and your organizations can provide support, contact the Stop the Demolition Coalition at action@peopleshurricane.org or at (504) 458-3494.


If you could stop another hurricane from hitting New Orleans, you would, wouldn't you?

This week, Hurricane H.U.D. is on its way to New Orleans to demolish over 4,500 units of low-income housing. If the bulldozers begin by December 18th they get a huge tax incentive, so it's going to take a levee of human proportions to stop it! Housing is a human right: we should be fighting to improve and increase housing for all the people of New Orleans, NOT demolishing what little structurally sound low-income housing remains! There are 50,000 families still living in FEMA trailers this holiday season, and H.U.D. wants to send bulldozers as a holiday gift.

Stop the Demolition, People's Hurricane Relief Fund

Last week Ruckus was asked to send support for the Stop the Demolition Coalition, a group of local partners who have banded together in this effort. We've responded as big and as quickly as possible, sending an action team of folks this past weekend to provide nonviolent direct action training and action support to the local action team. Our crew includes Indigenous People's Power Project (IP3) Director Marty Aranyado, Ruckus Project Director Sharon Lungo, and IP3 board member, Robert Chanate, all three of whom who are on the ground right now working with the communities in New Orleans to prepare to stop the bulldozers.

It is absolutely critical that you support the work in New Orleans this week. When we speak about climate justice, it is this type of work we mean - this is the frontline of our environmental efforts and it's up to YOU to strengthen the demands of the low income communities of New Orleans, who have been disproportionately affected by natural disasters, and continue to be ignored by our own government.

There are a multitude of ways to stand in solidarity:

Drop everything and go to New Orleans! (If you aren't from New Orleans, you are invited with love to come and support, but the role of decisionmaking lies with the local folks! More information is below.) We've posted the original call to action on our website, so please check out the solidarity pledge there and pack your bags!

Drop everything and go do a solidarity action at a Department of Housing and Urban Development office near you!

Drop everything you can in the form of a donation! Drop everything you can in the form of a donation! We only need $2,000 to cover our action team's travel and support gear for actions this week! Please donate to Ruckus - we will immediately apply every dollar!

To support ongoing work and actions, or if you think you can head down this week, please email action@peopleshurricane.org!

13 December, 2007

Clinton Tells Robot to "Look in the Mirror"

Here's the MSNBC coverage of the Robot Incident.

11 December, 2007

Something I don't understand

If my students and I are allowed to stay home and avoid the chunks of ice falling from trees and cables (not to mention the treacherous road conditions), why are Cambus drivers and dispatchers, Dental School folks, those who work in the library, or those who support my students and me in departmental or other adminstrative offices expected to "make every reasonable effort to report to work." My students and I are not required to "make up the time absent through an alternate work schedule within the same work week." We lose the time together, which is a problem (especially since this is the last week of classes this semester), but we are not expected to pay the university back for weather-related cancellations. And other local employers, such as ACT, told all their employees to stay home today. I honestly don't understand what makes it different for certain UI employees. One person suggested to me that it could be related to PR concerns. Could that really be it?

Here is the all-campus email announcement that got me wondering about this differential treatment:

UI Tuesday afternoon, evening classes cancelled

The University of Iowa has cancelled all afternoon and evening classes for Tuesday, Dec. 11, including classes on the Health Sciences campus, because of the icy weather, which is making travel by road and foot treacherous.

The one exception is the College of Dentistry. All student-dentists should report as scheduled for patient responsibilities.

Although classes are cancelled, Cambus continues to operate.

Officials will make a determination Wednesday morning about classes tomorrow.

University offices will remain open in accordance with the UI's Extreme Weather Protocol in the UI Operations Manual. University employees will be expected to make every reasonable effort to report to work as scheduled.

Upon evaluation of their individual circumstances, employees are expected to make reasonable judgments to avoid serious risks when traveling to and from work.

Employees are encouraged to actively communicate with their supervisor or other proper authority regarding their timeliness and attendance during extreme weather conditions, in order to assure proper staffing. When delayed, employees may be expected to report to work as soon as they become available, unless otherwise excused by their supervisor, in order to meet operational needs. Supervisory staff are expected to utilize their discretion reasonably and humanely in relation to this policy.

Employees who lose work time because of weather extremes may arrange with a supervisor to make up the time during the same work week, use vacation time, or take the time as leave without pay. Employees covered by collective bargaining agreements may have different benefits.

For more information about the UI's weather policy, refer to the policy at http://www.uiowa.edu/~our/opmanual/ii/22.htm

An overdue report back on the Combat Stress Panel

Since I'm not teaching this afternoon, I have the chance to report back on the conference on Combat Stress that was sponsored by the UI Antiwar Committee and the UI Veterans Association on Dec. 6th.

(As a brief aside, anyone who is interested in this or related subjects should read Judith Herman's book Trauma and Recovery.)

In spite of the weather and road conditions, a large crowd turned out to hear two veterans and two mothers of soldiers share their thoughts and experiences. The speakers were Scott Lyon, a young veteran of the U.S. war on Iraq, Tom Howe, a veteran of the U.S. War on Vietnam, Sue Dinsdale, the mother of an Iraq War veteran, and Kathryn Struck, the mother of two active-duty soldiers. Among the topics that affected me the most was the discussion of boot camp and how soldiers are coached to dehumanize the "enemy." Most unforgettable was one mother's story of how her son responded to the death of his friend. After his friend was killed by "insurgents," the young man told his mother that he was trying to kill as many "insurgents" as possible. She said that his strong sense of revenge and desire for "pay back" was accompanied by an inability to see the "insurgents" as people. The matter-of-fact way in which she described her son's words along with her obvious love for her son made for a very sobering experience. I am glad the panel was filmed and hope that many of you watch it when it airs on UITV. I think the program should be available soon. You can check the program schedule to find out when it will air. You might also look into ways to get a copy from them (not sure how that works), especially if you do not live in the Iowa City area.

There were a few reports on the panel in local media, such as this article.


Stay safe, everyone!

This Just In: Robot Attacks Bill Clinton to Avenge Sister Souljahj! More to Come!

If you go to this report in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, you'll find the following description of an interruption at Bill Clinton's appearance in Iowa City last night. This is the first mention of the happening in the news. I anticipate some more.

[Clinton] also dealt with a heckler who infiltrated an area set aside for the news media. Kembrew McLeod, UI communication studies associate professor, known for his studies of and performance of pranks, stood on a chair, while dressed as a robot, threw some cards in the air and asked for an apology to "Sister Souljah."

[Aside: Why is Sister Souljah in quotation marks? And how does someone dressed as a robot "infiltrate" a group of reporters? I am looking forward to the video.]

Nate will be providing the latest updates, I suspect, but I'm sure you won't want to miss the MR. IFOBCA Manifesto (“Why Did I Bum Rush Bill Clinton?”) by Kembrew McLeod, which includes the following:

The first time I fully realized Bill Clinton was not on the side of racial and social justice was after the “Sister Souljah Moment,” as it has come to be known in political circles. In a mean-spirited move—something straight out of Karl Rove’s playbook—Clinton tried to demonize a young Black woman named Sister Souljah by taking something she said out of context. (For a fuller understanding of how he twisted her words, read the short book excerpt below.) Clinton did this to ingratiate himself with white upper-middle class swing voters during the 1992 presidential campaign, and he portrayed Sister Souljah as a reckless radical who advocated killing white people. This was patently false, and Bill Clinton knew it, but that didn’t stop him from cynically turning her into a sacrificial lamb that helped save his flagging campaign.


For fifteen years I have wanted Bill Clinton to apologize for dissing Sister Souljah while happily accepting the honor of being America’s “first black president,” as novelist Toni Morrison once put it. In my capacity as President of the Iowa Chapter of MR. IFOBCA* (Mad Robots In Favor Of Bill Clinton Apologizing), I vow to continue sending an army of robots to all future Clinton appearances until he apologizes to Sister Souljah.

More Breaking Coverage
Hawk Central (Iowa Press Citizen) is now reporting:

Clinton's speech was briefly interrupted when a protester climbed on a chair in the media area and began throwing cards in the air and shouting into a plastic microphone.

The protester, thought to be a woman, was dressed in silver shoes, leggings, a bike helmet and glasses, and was unidentified by campaign officials, who escorted her out. Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Mark Daley said she was not arrested.

The cards she dropped indicated she was with Mad Robots In Favor of Bill Clinton Apologizing. The group's Web site said its Iowa president is Kembrew McLeod, a University of Iowa associate professor of communications studies. His Web site said Mad Robots are protesting a remark Clinton made to a black hip-hop artist in 1992.

10 December, 2007

2008 Kobayashi Takiji Memorial Symposium in Oxford!!!

I tell you, it almost knocked me off my feet when I first heard this, but every one of our wars, when you come right down to it, was maneuvered by two or three rich men (and I mean very rich men) and anything served for an excuse. The way I hear it, they're itching to get their hands on any place that shows even the smallest promise of a profit. They're playing with fire.
From The Factory Ship (translated by Frank Motofuji)

We all need Takiji's voice and passion now more than ever, and I'm thrilled to be able to announce this important event!

The Takiji Symposium will be held at Oxford University from September 16-18, 2008!

If you click here, you'll find the official announcement from the Shirakaba Literary Museum's Takiji Library (in both Japanese and English). Please note that paper abstracts are due by January 31st (and that they welcome papers on topics such as "internationalism and anti-imperialism" and "state repression and torture")!!

09 December, 2007

Spring Semester Sublet in Iowa City: $435 a month

Pass it on:

If you or someone you know needs a place to stay spring semester, there is a clean, quiet efficiency available for sublet, starting in January. The location is convenient even for folks without a car (six blocks east of campus, half a block from Lou Henri's, and close to the Co-op). You share a kitchen and bathroom with one other person. The lease runs through June 30, so it's perfect for someone who just needs a place for one semester. Let me know if you are interested, and I'll put you in touch with the person who can show it to you.

08 December, 2007

07 December, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and Tom Tancredo

First of all, the Good:

Cynthia McKinney is on the move! I just received the following announcement. Electoral politics might still have a chance to matter in the US.


Rep. Cynthia McKinney to make campaign stops in Iowa, Sunday, December 9th

Six-term Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney will be stopping in Iowa City and Waterloo on Sunday, December 9th, as part of her "Power to the People" tour, promoting her campaign to win the Green Party nomination for President of the United States.

Congresswoman McKinney will meet with the public, talk about her campaign at The Cottage Bakery and Cafe,14 S. Linn St, Iowa City, from 9:00- 11:00 a.m. At 11:15, she will pay a visit to the Hamburg Inn, 214 N. Linn St, where she will speak with patrons and look into adding her own coffee jar to the famous coffee bean caucus. In Waterloo, she will stop at the Logan Street Hy-Vee at 1:00 p.m. to talk about her campaign and meet with the public. She will be available for media interviews at all of these locations.

Rep. McKinney was the first African-American woman from Georgia elected to Congress, serving six terms in the House. Prior to completing her most recent term, she introduced articles of impeachment against President Bush charging him with manipulating intelligence and lying to justify the war in Iraq, failing to uphold accountability and violating privacy laws with his domestic spying program. The articles also included charges against Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Throughout her career, Rep. McKinney has worked both inside and outside the established political system, serving in Congress as a member of the Democratic Party, and serving as a member of the of the Independent Progressive Politics Network national steering committee. The subject of the film "American Blackout," she has been an important voice in calling attention to the crime of voter suppression (especially among African-American and youth populations). She has offered encouragement to the newly-formed "Reconstruction Party" in New Orleans, and has now decided to seek the nation's highest office as a progressive, independent of the two-party system. "It is a real honor to have someone of Rep. McKinney's political stature seek the Green Party's presidential nomination, and we're excited to welcome her to Iowa," said Wendy Barth, 2006 Green gubernatorial candidate and co-chair of the Iowa Green Party.


To contact Cynthia McKinney/Power to the People campaign:

Wendy Barth, Co-chair, Iowa Green Party 319-363-5345
Daryl Northrop, Co-chair, Iowa Green Party 515-229-9368

Media Coordinator: Rick Johnson 319-601-1364

Iowa City Contact: Holly Hart 319-331-9616
Waterloo Contact: David Larsen 319-232-1776

Now, onto the Bad and Tom Tancredo:

This very lengthy post will be the first in an ongoing attempt to document recent developments in Iowa for myself and others who are concerned about Iowa's status as arguably the most racist state in the US, as well as related issues not unique to Iowa. Please share resources and feel free to forward info here to anyone you think may be interested. For background, please see this post on Prison Industrial Complex racism in Iowa. You can also use the search box at the top of the page to find other related posts on racism and Iowa in this blog.

As many of you now know, some white University of Iowa students wore blackface to a local bar called Brothers. Photos of those students were posted on the bar's website. The Black Student Union complained. The bar owner, Marc Fortney, responded by disavowing racism and slandering the character of my student Vernon Jackson, the BSU president who is pictured here. You can read about the case here. Fortney's response is as predictable as it is offensive. When UI Prof. Vershawn Young protested racial profiling, his character was disparaged by the police. There is no shortage of examples of white people who deflect attention away from charges of racism by claiming to be personally "harmed" by such charges or by attacking the victim and/or the person who points out the racism. I also learned last night of a program at the UI that has systematically silenced students of color by following up discussions of racism in class with lectures on "respect" intended to comfort white students who were "hurt" by classmates of color who objected to racist speech and writing. I have also learned of incidents in local dorms (including drawings of a noose) that I will post as soon as I learn more. Also, there are plans in the works to address racism in Iowa in a major way in February. I will post more as plans develop.

And during this pre-caucus season, at least one candidate is doing his very best to appeal to racist voters. I was just forwarded this article. I wonder if Tancredo is watching that hideous Pearl Harbor film in his McMansion today.

“We have friends over and I have now shown Pearl Harbor about six times,” Tancredo boasted to the Rocky Mountain News about his 102-inch television. “But I mainly just show the attack scene because the sound is so good.”

Just yesterday, an old friend emailed me about Tancredo's racist TV ad. He wanted to know what folks in Iowa were doing in response to the ad, which you can see here.

As much as we need to take on Tancredo's racism, and Vernon Jackson of the UI Black Student Union said they are with those of us who want to do something, I think it's also important to reflect on how Tancredo is making it easier for the other candidates to get away with racist comments and policy proposals. If Tancredo pushes the Republican discussion to this xenophobic extreme, it might make anti-immigrant and racist remarks by Romney or anyone else seem "less extreme" in comparison. Because Tancredo plays the xenophobic white supremacist role, Romney might be getting away with using an expression like "tar baby," and few people even seem to know about this Giuliani video.

[ACH note: I removed the rest of this post on 12/11 after learning about the shooting at New Life Church this past Sunday.]

03 December, 2007

Amiri Baraka says:


Please Forward

01 December, 2007

“Koda-kun” by Shiga Naoki (translated by Shiori Yamazaki"

My wonderful graduate student Shiori Yamazaki translated the post that appeared here on the Irregular Rhythm Asylum blog. Shiga is the same anarchist and punk singer (of Guchi) who made this "dismantle the emperor system" poster. He is currently traveling around the world. The names in Shiori's translation below are like in English with the surname last and given name first. Please share this with others.

"Koda-kun" by Naoki Shiga
translated by Shiori Yamazaki

There is an inn in Amman in Jordan, where Shosei Koda, who was killed in Iraq, had once stayed. One backpacker set out for Iraq by himself from this inn three years ago.

Iraq has been in a state of invasion by the US Army from the Gulf War up until the present. The US Army has killed countless Iraqis during this invasion. The Japanese government also has dispatched the SDF (Self Defense Force) troops to support the US Army. There are many guerrillas, of course, in Iraq (the US calls guerrillas terrorists), who resist these invading armies.

Under these circumstances, Koda-kun was captured three years ago by the guerillas who were resisting the US army’s invasion. The guerrillas demanded that the Japanese government withdraw the SDF troops from Iraq, as a condition of Koda-kun’s release.

The news about Koda-kun being taken as a hostage spread all over Japan. However, the Japanese government didn’t accept the guerrilla’s demand. And he was killed. Mass communication and public opinion expressed sympathy toward him before he was killed. As soon as he was killed, however, mass communication and public opinion, from the government on down, all of the sudden, started to criticize Koda, depicting him as the bad guy, who had selfishly gone to Iraq. In the end, they tried to deny his entire existence by using the word “jikosekinin [self-responsibility].”

Since that day, I’ve never been able to forget about his death. There are, of course, occasions when I forget, but it’s stuck somewhere in my heart all the time.

Why is that? Is it because I am the same age as him? Or is it because I am a traveler like him? Or is it because I’ve opposed all sorts of wars such as the one being carried out by the US army? Or opposed the Japanese government’s reaction toward him? Or opposed the mass communication and public opinions, who kept insulting him, a man who had already died?

Probably, all of these things have stuck in me. Most of the mass communication didn’t talk about such a thing as “why” he went to Iraq. What on earth did he want to do in Iraq?

The answer was written down on a note, which was left at KODA hotel (Mr. Samer, an employee of the inn where Koda-kun stayed, named it after Koda-kun to mourn him).

Koda-kun wanted to help Iraqi kids who had been hurt by the war, and he tried to look at reality with his own eyes, the reality which TV doesn’t show. And he acted.
There are pictures in the note which Koda-kun passed Mr. Samer before leaving for Iraq.

There are Iraqi children in this picture who have been hurt by the US army’s bombings. (Koda-kun’s family made a copy of this picture and sent it to Mr. Samer later.)

I had no idea for what reason Koda-kun tried to go to Iraq until I came to the inn, “Koda Hotel” in Amman. So, I want to introduce it here for those like me who didn’t know about it. (The reason why he tried to go to Iraq has been referred to in some books and magazines.)

I couldn’t for the life of me forget about Koda-kun’s death. I offered rice hot from the pot and vodka for Koda-kun’s picture, which was decorated in Koda Hotel. Also, I chanted a sutra and said a mass for him. This picture [of Koda-kun] is the one which Koda-kun’s family passed on to Mr. Samer.

Nothing changes, however, even after a fake monk or a high priest holds a mass. The thing that’d change is just my feelings. I just take over his will as I like – his wish to help Iraqi children. And I act to disallow this kind of situation [which is portrayed in the] pictures of Iraqi children, who have been hurt by bombings. I will also live his life as well. I like to think of it in this way.

I can’t help feeling that Koda-kun, who is on trip, is in this inn in Amman. I also feel that he is supporting us who are traveling around the world like him. This might be an illusion, but I feel it is so.

(These notes are the story that I gathered from what Mr. Samer of Koda Hotel told me. I hope you can read it well.)

P.S.1 Many refugees, whose homes in Iraq were taken, have been escaping to Jordan and Syria. The Iraqi doctor who I talked to told me about the many killings by the US Army. Our talk was interrupted because we were at a loss for words, because of either sadness or anger.

And on the same night, a few Japanese, Iraqi, American, Australian, Germans and I went to see a movie called “the Zigizigi Land,” which is about a Palestinian who works as a taxi driver in the US. The movie opens up the pathology of the whole American society, cynically and sharply shown through the conversation between the Palestinian driver and the passengers. It criticizes severely the apartheid toward Palestinians by the Israeli government.

I thought that it is a significant thing to be able to talk about the Palestinian problem through one movie with everyone, as individuals, beyond our nationalities, races, and situations such as being Iraqi, American, Japanese, Australian, or German. I also think that it is [because of] the power of movie or art.

Besides, we all are against the war as individuals when we get rid of our delicate positions. I think that it is the first step to change how each government deals with Palestinian apartheid, Israel’s invasion, and the US Army’s invasion of Iraq, starting with the Japanese government who supports them. Then, if we could take them into our daily lives practically, even it’s slow, I think they would have widespread grassroots support.

P.S. 2 I went to the Palestinian refugee’s area in Lebanon. Kids full of energy were running around downtown among the remains of gunfire. The city was full of life with various kinds of shops. The Palestinian flags were displayed and the posters of Palestine releases were put up all over the town. The road of returning to Palestine hasn’t ended yet. Even if the world forgets when it’s convenient, they’d live like weeds which grow through asphalt.

I went to a shop there which sells Palestine releases. I bought some T-shirts and Palestine stoles. Please purchase them when they get to IRA soon if you are interested. (They are here! IRA)

Labels: Anti-War, Palestine, shiga

Samer notes:

There was a phone call to Cliff Hotel from an Arabian man (I think he is a Taxi driver.) at around 4 in October 19th, 2004.

“There is a Japanese person who wants to go to your hotel. Can you tell me the address?” he said.

Koda came to Cliff Hotel with the driver 5 minutes later.

He didn’t even mention about Iraq at first, but said “I want to stay at a dormitory,” so I took him to his room and was writing his name (check-in). (The interaction around here is a little different from the book by Yuji Shimokawa, but I’ve just recorded the story of Samer himself.) [Yuji Shimokawa wrote a book called “Why Shousei Koda was killed?”]

Then, he suddenly said “I want to go to Iraq. Can you tell me where I can use a service?”

“It is too dangerous to go there by a service,” I said because the people who use a service are only tourists and there is a risk of being targeted.
And Koda said “I have to go.”

I asked the reason, and he said “I want to help Iraqi children. I want to go to Iraq, look at what is going on with my own eyes, and tell the Japanese people when I return to Japan.”

I answered “you can only go by bus if you really want.” He said “OK. Please make a reservation now.” I could have made a reservation if I wanted to, but I thought there’d be a chance that I could stop him, so I lied saying “it’s too late to make a reservation today.” He returned to his room saying “then please make a reservation on tomorrow’s bus.”

It was around 4:30pm when Koda came out from his room and went out to buy a sandwich and ate it at the balcony in the back of reception.

After that, he went back to his room, and after a while, he was looking at an information note standing in front of the bookshelf in the lobby. And he went back to his room right after that.

He looked different from other tourists. (he seemed like he was thinking about something.)

After half an hour, he came out from his room, sat on a chair for a long time in the balcony, and was looking out the street. I was worried about him, so I went out to the balcony and talked to him asking “do you still want to go to Iraq?” He just answered “yes” with a serious face. I asked a guy who was staying at the Cliff hotel at that time to talk to Koda. I wanted him to quit thinking about going to Iraq by talking to a Japanese person.

That guy went out to the balcony, and talked with Koda. I tried to make him comfortable by telling some jokes “haven’t you changed your mind? If you really go to Iraq, you will be on Aljazirra (a news program of a satellite TV company in Qatar.)”
The other guy laughed at it, but Koda didn’t show a smile. He seemed upset.

After that, Koda and that guy talked for a long time. After they finished talking, the Japanese person said “He’s insisting on going to Iraq. No one can stop him.”

Koda woke up at around 10 the next morning (October 20th), asked me “did you make a reservation?” I answered saying “I did it for the bus leaving 6pm,” but it was a lie, because I thought there was a chance I could still stop him. He checked out at noon and was sitting the couch in the lobby, and I asked him many times “you haven’t changed your mind about going to Iraq?” but he said “no, I haven’t.”

I had to make a reservation by 2pm if I needed to make a reservation, so I asked him once again before 2. But he didn’t change his mind about going to Iraq. So, I had to make a reservation for a bus. I couldn’t stop him.

Koda passed me one thing at around 2 or 3 pm saying “please keep this until I get back from Iraq.” It was a stone that he picked up at the Dead Sea, a towel, and pictures of Iraqi children. There were about 10 pictures, and portrayed children who hurt by the war. Koda said “I got them from a Japanese person.”

After he died, I sent them to his family, and they sent me back one copy of the pictures and Koda’s picture. (they are in Samer’s book.)

The picture of children who they sent me was ok. Those pictures were the children who were hurt much worse than that. I think Koda wanted to do something for these kids.

Koda kept reading the information note until the departure, except for a time when he went out. The Japanese man (who talked with Koda last night) and I went to the bus terminal with Koda to see him off at around 5pm. He said “Assalam/Good-bye,” and took off on the bus.

2 hours after we saw him off, I decided to make a phone call to the Japanese Embassy. I said “A Japanese person, who is called ‘Shousei Koda’ left for Iraq 2 hours ago. I don’t think he has reached the border yet. I want you to stop him if possible.” The embassy said just “Thank you for your call. Please let us know if you get some more information.”

After that, I called someone who I know working at a hotel in Bagdad and asked if a Japanese person came or not, but I was told that he hadn’t. I was sure that Koda would go to the hotel because I told him about it, so I called again after a while. Then he said “A Japanese guy sure came by, but we can’t guarantee his safety, and the hotel could be targeted instead, so we couldn’t let him stay.”

A person from United Nation, who Mr. Samer knows, called the hotel at around midnight on 26th and said “A Japanese person was captured as a hostage in Iraq. Please watch either Aljazeera or NHK.” I turned on TV, and found Koda, who was surrounded by an armed group. I was so surprised and shocked.

When I found that Koda was captured by the element of al Qaeda lead by Zarqawi, I felt desperate like “if the Japanese government didn’t do anything during the time al Qaeda is demanding, he will be killed for sure.”

After that, people came from the Japanese government (foreign ministry) to Cliff Hotel, and asked me about various kinds of things concerning Koda. But when the three including Takato-san [and Imai-kun] were captured as hostages in Iraq a half years ago [2004], various kinds of people like the foreign ministry, the SDF, the Jordan government, came many times, and asked me many more things, and it was chaos.
But, this time with Koda wasn’t like that.

I’m wondering if they were thinking that he would be rescued like the three, and not be killed. I thought, however, “this is dangerous.” The al Qaeda group who caught Koda was too dangerous.

Later, there were two reports saying “Asian’s dead body was found,” but it wasn’t Koda. But I learned that he was found dead at 10pm on the 30th by the news. There was a phone call from the Japanese government that told me that he had been killed.

2 days later, I received a phone call from his family, and I apologized. They said “it’s not your fault.” When I found out that Koda was killed, I swore that I would name the hotel after Koda when I own it- which is my dream- and never forget about him.

A few months later, I called the Japanese Embassy, and asked them to tell Koda’s family “I want to name the hotel ‘KODA HOTEL’.” 1 week later, his family sent me a fax saying “thank you very much. When you make a hotel, please use his name, either KODA or SHOUSEI is fine.”

But, I was told that the City of Jordan can’t allow me to use “KODA HOTEL.” (I wonder if that was because it’s a personal name or because of the incident.) Actually, there are some procedures to change the name of the hotel which I will take over, and it takes time and money. It is too much, so I will start with the hotel’s name as it is now, but when I have more time and money, I will try to change it to ‘KODA HOTEL.’

But if I could open a hotel, I’ll write ‘KODA HOTEL’ in Japanese under the hotel’s name (so that the city wouldn’t know it.) try not to forget about him ever, and I don’t want people to forget about him.

[the translator’s note: Mr. Samer did open his own hotel whose name is KODA HOTEL on October 1st this year.]