Tuesday, January 30, 2007



This is the final installment of a 3-part piece reporting on my journeys to vacationlands tormented by terrorist acts, civil war and natural catastrophe. In 2006, I had started my journeys by visiting Jordan and ended by visiting Bali, Indonesia. On the way I had traveled to Sri Lanka.

I should note that there was a suicide bombing at an Ammani hotel the month before I arrived, but there has been no such bombing in either 2006 or 2007 in Jordan.

Americans and Europeans seldom appreciate the huge burden of taking care of and integrating refugees that the poor Middle Eastern nation of Jordan has put up with for over six decades now. This is why well-over three million residents in Jordan now have the right to dual Jordanian and Palestinian citizenship.

The newest great influx in refugees are Iraqi victims of Civil War.

No country has accepted more refugees than Jordan from Iraq since the Invasion in 2003. Naturally, some of these refugees are quite wealthy and some are actually looters of Iraqi capital. (For example, some Iraqis have built humongous hotels in Amman and elsewhere.) However, the majority—either passing through or settling in this relatively dry desert land—are not wealthy Iraqis.

Of course, one of the great refugee groups of history were the ancient Israelites, who after they were chased out of Egypt in the time of Moses wandered the deserts of Egypt. These 1000s of Israelis wandered through the region for many decades. Moses, himself, never saw the foundation of an Israeli state. It was on a Jordanian hill overlooking the Jordan River where the Lord allowed Moses to see but not go into the Promised Land.

On my way to the great city of Petra, I stopped at the church which had been built at the point where Moses had stood and had brought his band of desert refugees over three millennia ago.
Earlier, in Amman City, I had met a young boy with no left eye and a scarred face from Fallujah, Iraq bombings by US forces earlier in the year 2004. That January 2006, this boy was staying in the same hotel as I near the bus station in Amman with his father. They were passing through Jordan on a journey to the United States. [The journey was being sponsored to a Pittsburgh, PA hospital and paid for by American donors and the organization NO MORE VICTIMS. See there website at http://www.nomorevictims.org/hakeem.php ]

Meanwhile, I didn't run into nearly as many Palestinians in or around the ancient city of Petra as I had encountered in Amman, the nation's capital city and known in Roman times as the City of Philadelphia—the city of brotherly love. On the other hand, I ran into more people who considered themselves Bedouin than in northern Jordan. Bedouin had wandered into the caves and troglodyte city of ancient Petra over the centuries after its decline and disappearance into oblivion over 15 centuries earlier.

Only in recent decades had the Jordanian government paid much attention to Petra and Wadi Run regions of southern Jordan. I took a camel and a donkey ride through the valley of Petra over several days and enjoyed lamb boiled in yoghurt at the government relocated homes of the Petra Bedouin.

I highly recommend traveling and hiking through the Valleys of Petra over at least a four day period.

Too many people just take a tour where they walk in and out of a canyon or "eye of a needle" on a two-hour tour. That is such a waste of a trip. One needs to sit in Petra's great amphitheatre carved out of a mountain and soak in the views all around him. As well as hiking, sitting, and marveling at the architecture and scenery, one needs to ride in Petra all the different transport and animals—horses, horse drawn carriages, camels, and donkeys--which make the Petra region so integrated with ancient middle eastern experience.

If one spends time with the many Bedouin and other Jordanians who labor or guide in the park, one will also learn of the importance of tribalism in the Middle East and how law and order in the south may be more dictated by tribal decision than by Jordanian jurisprudance.

Because Jordan has had so many people of Palestinian descent, the government of Jordan had to side with the PLA and Iraq in the Kuwaiti invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91. This resulted in an isolation from other Arab states during the following decade. Tourism was also hit particularly hard as fears of terrorism has affected travelers to the region over the last decade.
There is however now good news for Jordan that is found in the form of a fairly independent campaign to create a world-wide campaign to rename the "7 Wonders of the Ancient World" via an on-line voting system and lobbying by over 20 different nations and groups or organizers.

Recently, on January 16, 2007—one year from the day I left Jordan—Petra promoted its candidacy as a challenger for the Top 7 Title. The combination of both wonderful natural views and the ancient cave dwellings of the Nabatean Civilization make it a site to certainly consider voting for.

Check out how to vote on-line at: http://www.new7wonders.com/


Saturday, January 27, 2007

My Mom is Getting Better at Interpreting Spin: Let's all get Better at It

My mom just passed this on, and all progressives likely agree that we have had enough of this shoved down our throats. Let's not let it happen anymore!

Well, after the recent State of the Union address, this seemed so appropriate.....
Being Republican Today You Have To Agree With The Following:

Jesus loves you and shares your hatred for homosexuals and Hillary.

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him;
a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him;
a good guy when Cheney did business with him;
a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

The United States should get out of the United Nations and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

Woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulations.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans benefits and combat pay.

If condoms are kept out of schools then adolescents won't have sex.

A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

Providing health care for all Iraqis is sound policy but providing health care for all Americans is socialism. HMO's and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

Global warming and tobacco's possible link to cancer are junk science but creationism should be taught in schools.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution which include banning gay marriage and censoring the Internet.

The public has the right to know about Hillary's cattle trades but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

Being a drug addict is a moral failure and a crime unless you are a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

You support states rights but the Attorney General can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.

What Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest but what George Bush did in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s is irrelevant.

Feel free to pass this on. If you don't send it to at least 10 other people we're likely to be stuck with more Republicans in 2006 and 2008.


I will vote green and orange, too,--if God for bid--some Republicans get really moral for a change and lives out the scriptures in terms of treating their fellow men as Jesus told them , I will consider voting for one or two of them, too.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Appropriating Fiction for Reality: The George W. Bush Story—The Movie Plot


By Kevin Stoda

I was reading through George Monbiot’s article “Routine and Systematic Torture is at the Heart of America's War on Terror” in the Guardian a few days ago and was reminded of my long-proposed Hollywood movie plot.

The author’s (Monbiot’s) main theme is that in “the fight against cruelty, barbarism and extremism, America has embraced the very evils it claims to confront”. Therefore, on these next pages, I am going to purposefully use long quotes or excerpts from Mr. Monbiot’s recent writing on terror and torture. By both: (1) appropriating texts from Monbiot’s writing and (2) adding caveats of information from my past and my nation’s past describing the 20th Century American adventure—along with a new perspective of our “hero” or “victim” George W. Bush who can best be understood through docu-fiction.

Perhaps by reading through this montage or film script you can understand the context in which George W. Bush found himself--and placed his nation into—during the 21st Century. I am creating this narration in the manner that a director might clip and splice together scenes of a documentary film with scenes of other actual footage using dramatic actors in creating a great film sequence—like in Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK.
A story like this certainly needs to be told because it shares profoundly North American experiences which affects adversely the world we live in so greatly today.

Scene 1 (Using Mobiot’s text)

Monbiot narrates as follows:
“After thousands of years of practice, you might have imagined that every possible means of inflicting pain had already been devised. But you should never underestimate the human capacity for invention. United States interrogators, we now discover, have found a new way of destroying a human being.”

"Last week, defense lawyers acting for José Padilla, a US citizen detained as an "enemy combatant", released a video showing a mission fraught with deadly risk - taking him to the prison dentist. A group of masked guards in riot gear shackled his legs and hands, blindfolded him with black-out goggles and shut off his hearing with headphones, then marched him down the prison corridor. "

"Is Padilla really that dangerous? Far from it: his warders describe him as so docile and inactive that he could be mistaken for "a piece of furniture". The purpose of these measures appeared to be to sustain the regime under which he had lived for more than three years: total sensory deprivation. He had been kept in a blacked-out cell, unable to see or hear anything beyond it. Most importantly, he had had no human contact, except for being bounced off the walls from time to time by his interrogators. As a result, he appears to have lost his mind. I don't mean this metaphorically. I mean that his mind is no longer there.”

"The forensic psychiatrist who examined him says that he "does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation". José Padilla appears to have been lobotomized: not medically, but socially.

Scene 2 (Flashback to North America of the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s)

Amazed at the way Stalin had carried out so many big Show Trials in the 1930s and how the Hitler-Goebble’s team had manipulated so many Germans throughout that same decade [& through the end of WWII in 1945], the precursors of the modern U.S. intelligence network, including the CIA and NSC, decided in the 1950s and 1960s to invest in developing the means of quickly transforming people’s minds.

That is, the CIA and other government agencies paid for research and experiments on human subjects to identify what causative and manipulative elements of behavioral control used by fascists and communists to benefit them in the past could help the USA in its great struggle against its enemies around world during the Cold War.This secret project of the CIA was called the “MK Ultra” program.

During the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, unsuspecting victims of MK Ultra both on America’s home front and in neighboring Canada were used and abused to develop profiles for those objects (real people) or subjects who could be readily manipulated and changed. Specifically, controlled situations were created and methods were developed for erasing and changing a person’s concept of self or ones self-perceptions in their own family ands social relationships were undertaken.Victims of these experiments were both knowingly and unknowingly manipulated by dru hallucinogenics used by the CIA and FBI.

Several North American’s were led to suicide, in one case simply to prove that it could be done through combined manipulations by handlers using drugs.

The History Channel in the 1990s presented several documentaries outlining what had been undertaken through these CIA sponsored activities during the Cold War. All of these obscene murders and manipulations were done in the name of creating a scientific method for brainwashing and disorientation of subjects. Such practices were, indeed, discovered and developed so that an agent or group of handlers could or torturer control what a person felt like saying or thinking—if anything at all. (Some patients and prisoners have appeared to be in zombie-like states when released from such torturous treatment.)

Officially, in the wake of the Watergate scandal as of the mid-1970s, the U.S. Congress had officially ordered the CIA to end the program, called “MK Ultra”. This occurred only after a national scandal had broken out in Canada over the misuse, abuse, and transformation of numerous Canadian citizens in those CIA-sponsored experiments. Even though, the CIA and military intelligence personnel, and other intelligence agencies were told to stop and desist from funding such operations, research, and training, it is clear now that this did not actually happen.

Worse still, no high level person was ever punished for these crimes against humanity.

Note: For a good summary of this horrible Cold War era program, review this article:
Mind Control and MK Ultra

Scene 3 (Using Mobiot’s text published in 2007)

Recently, another person, labeled an “enemy combatant” in the U.S.A., was Ali al-Marri. Similar to conditions in holding centers in the U.S.A. during the MK Ultra experiments, Mobiot writes that Marri “claims to have been subject to the same total isolation and sensory deprivation, in the same naval prison in South Carolina.”

The only difference between the 21st Century treatment of prisoners and the mistreatment of Canadian citizens in the MK Ultra sponsored projects of the 1960s and 1970s was that electrical shock therapy and medication had also been the handler’s means of manipulation in the Canadian experiments.Concerning prisoners disappearing or being sent abroad, Mobiot adds, “God knows what is being done to people who have disappeared into the CIA's foreign oubliettes.”

Mobiot also notes, “That the US tortures, routinely and systematically, while prosecuting its ‘war on terror’ can no longer be seriously disputed. The Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project (DAA), a coalition of academics and human-rights groups, has documented the abuse or killing of 460 inmates of US military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. This, it says, is necessarily a conservative figure: many cases will remain unrecorded. The prisoners were beaten, raped, forced to abuse themselves, forced to maintain ‘stress positions’, and subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation and mock executions.”

“The New York Times reports that prisoners held by the US military at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan were made to stand for up to 13 days with their hands chained to the ceiling, naked, hooded and unable to sleep. The Washington Post alleges that prisoners at the same airbase were "commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep" while kept, like Padilla and the arrivals at Guantánamo, ‘in black hoods or spray-painted goggles’.”

“Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, argues that the photographs released from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq reflect standard CIA torture techniques: "stress positions, sensory deprivation, and sexual humiliation". The famous picture of the hooded man standing on a box, with wires attached to his fingers, shows two of these techniques being used at once. Unable to see, he has no idea how much time has passed or what might be coming next. He stands in a classic stress position - maintained for several hours, it causes excruciating pain. He appears to have been told that if he drops his arms he will be electrocuted. What went wrong at Abu Ghraib is that someone took photos. Everything else was done by the book.”

“Neither the military nor the civilian authorities have broken much sweat in investigating these crimes. A few very small fish have been imprisoned; a few others have been fined or reduced in rank; in most cases the authorities have either failed to investigate or failed to prosecute. The DAA points out that no officer has yet been held to account for torture practiced by his subordinates. US torturers appear to enjoy impunity, until they are stupid enough to take pictures of each other.”

Scene 4 (Flashback to Canadian Mental Hospital in the 1960s)

In this scene, a Canadian family is sharing the tale of what happened to the mother of the house. The woman, then in her early thirties, had been taken to a famous psychiatric in clinic in Toronto on recommendation of her trusted doctor after anti-depressants had proven to be failing her.

This mother was subsequently totally separated from her family for roughly 45 days. At the end of that time, the women’s husband explained sadly, “I could hardly recognize her. She was like a little child or a baby. She was now a happy new-born, but she had to be re-taught everything.”

“She didn’t even recognize us—me or her own kids. Occasionally, she even drooled uncontrollably and just stayed motionless except for gazing happily into space. Her mind was just not there!”

The husband and children had to teach her everything again—how to use knives and forks, how to wash, how to brush her teeth, how to cook etc. This poor women’s own mother was asked to move back into the house and help “raise her”.

It took many years for this poor female victim to regain competence in many things that had once been routine for her. Worse still was the fact that this mother had forgotten many positive memories in her earlier life, i.e. what had occurred to her before she went under the fake, illegitimate, and manipulative treatment at the Canadian clinic—all paid for by CIA and American dollars.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s, when news of the full-blown scandal of CIA sponsored “treatments” in the Canadian clinic had hit all the tabloids, press and media in both Canada and in the United States that this project was even officially questioned in Washington.The famous Church Commission and other congressional watchdog groups demanded closure of such projects.

The new CIA leadership, under George Herbert Walker Bush, claimed to have done this.
Note: For more on this women’s sad tale, see this 2007 articlehttp://www.vivelecanada.ca/article.php/20070108101503142
It is entitled “Canada handed over patients for CIA experiments”.

Scene 5 (from Mobiot’s text)

Mobiot writes, “But Padilla's treatment also reflects another glorious American tradition: solitary confinement. Some 25,000 US prisoners are currently held in isolation - a punishment only rarely used in other democracies. In some places, like the federal prison in Florence, Colorado, they are kept in sound-proofed cells and might scarcely see another human being for years on end. They may touch or be touched by no one. Some people have been kept in solitary confinement in the US for more than 20 years.”

"At Pelican Bay in California, where 1,200 people are held in the isolation wing, inmates are confined to tiny cells for 22 and a half hours a day, then released into an 'exercise yard' for 'recreation'. The yard consists of a concrete well about 3.5 metres in length with walls 6 metres high and a metal grille across the sky. The recreation consists of pacing back and forth, alone.

The results are much as you would expect. As National Public Radio reveals, more than 10% of the isolation prisoners at Pelican Bay are now in the psychiatric ward, and there's a waiting list."

Scene 6 (Flashback to a College Town near a North Texas Prison in the late 1990s)

It is 1998, George W. Bush is the governor of the state of Texas and he is running for his second term in office. In August, newspaper around the state print a story about a funny and disturbing incident relating to the governor and to a foreign-born inmate at a private prison facility near Wichita Falls’.

The newspaper’s story concerns a native Indian who has been serving a multi-year sentence in various incarceration centers in the state of Texas. The Indian national had sent Governor Bush a request for a pardon earlier that year.

To the media’s howling ridicule, instead of recieving a reply to this request, the young prisoner was sent by someone working with the governor’s reelection campaign a surprising response.In a letter he received in the mail, that young imprisoned Indian national simply received a request from the governor’s political staff asking him to donate to the Republican reelection campaign. Dismayed and frustrated, the young Indian prisoner passed his story onto the state press via a local priest who had visited him at the northern Texas correctional facility.

This story of a prisoner-seeking-a-pardon receiving a request for money for the governor’s reelection campaign ran as the political joke of the month around Austin and Dallas that August 1998. However, the story quietly disappeared as subsequent weeks passed.

Meanwhile, on the local university campus, the regular monthly meeting of the student chapter of Amnesty International takes place. Unusual at this meeting is the attendance of an employee from the university. This was the director of the foreign student affairs office on campus. He asked the chapter to find a way to help the young Indian national in the local prison, i.e. the one whom had been referred to in the newspapers all over Texas that prior August.

The Indian national had sent another letter or plea through the chaplain at the prison. The letter from the young man is read to all in the AI audience that night.

In the plea, the young prisoner first explained that he is now in solitary confinement most of the time, including 23-hour a day lock down. He also shared his story of how he had ended up in a Texas prison facility in the first place for breaking and entering the home of his former girl-friend (in order to retrieve his own property). This Indian had already served many years in Texas prisons for this and a related crime. He had also not gotten along well at any of the prisons he had been in.

In the intervening years, he had been moved to a variety of prisons around the state—and some time had been added to his sentence due to his fighting in prison, etc. This Indian prisoner admitted to not getting along with other inmates, and he had subsequently become more and more isolated in the Texas prison system.

Now, the young Indian national wrote that since August his prison warden had placed him under a 23- to 24-hour a day lock-down alone in a cell. This was possibly done out of retribution for the fact that he had illegally given a letter to the former chaplain to pass on to the Texas news media.The foreign-born man stated clearly that he felt he had already been going absolutely insane.

In fact, the Indian national explained that this was the very reason why he had written the governor of Texas for help in the first place.The Indian stated that he had stated in his letter to the governor of Texas that he would be happy to serve the rest of his long sentence in his homeland’s prisons. That is, in the much poorer Indian jail system. He asked the governor of Texas in writing to either pardon him (with time served) or to exile him home— still to continue to be incarcerated.

Disappointedly for the local chapter of AI, this disturbed and isolated foreigner was transferred as an inmate to still another prison in Texas before national or international AI investigators could even be invited into the community to investigate the claims by the Indian national that he was unfairly placed under nearly total solitary confinement for simply using his rights to free expression.

No one in the local university Amnesty chapter ever found out where the young man had been sent. But losing prisoners in the system is not an unknown event in the large U.S. prison system.

In November 1998, George W. Bush is reelected as governor of Texas.

Scene 7 (from Mobiot’s text)

“Prisoners in solitary confinement, according to Dr Henry Weinstein, a psychiatrist who studies them, suffer from ‘memory loss to severe anxiety to hallucinations to delusions ... under the severest cases of sensory deprivation, people go crazy.’ People who went in bad and dangerous come out mad as well. The only two studies conducted so far - in Texas and Washington state - both show that the recidivism rates for prisoners held in solitary confinement are worse than for those who were allowed to mix with other prisoners. If we were to judge the US by its penal policies, we would perceive a strange beast: a Christian society that believes in neither forgiveness nor redemption.”

“From this delightful experiment, US interrogators appear to have extracted a useful lesson: if you want to erase a man's mind, deprive him of contact with the rest of the world. This has nothing to do with obtaining information: torture of all kinds - physical or mental - produces the result that people will say anything to make it end. It is about power, and the thrilling discovery that in the right conditions one man's power over another is unlimited. It is an indulgence which turns its perpetrators into everything they claim to be confronting.”

Scene 8 (Flashback to another location in Texas in the early 1970s)

It is 1972, the young national guard volunteer had gone AWOL for the second time within a year. His well-connected daddy had had enough!

The boy needed treatment; the boy just couldn’t seem to control his impulses.

The father, who had even greater political ambitions than most, had been contacted by one of his old chums in the government. Then, the AWOL national guardsman was found, captured and whisked away from an Austin bar late one night. Soon, a psychiatric consultant working with the U.S. government was brought on board to talk with both the father and the young man.

Later, the young man’s father showed up at a correctional institutional on the base and talked to the boy. The young pilot was persuaded to sign himself over for treatment and training to a special government agency under the program name of MK Ultra.

The young man, who goes by his initial “W”, nodded to his parent and agreed to do what would best help his papa out.After, “W” signed himself over for treatment in a secret government facility, his behavior was modified and his mind was altered.

In his father’s words, the boy became "a man"—maybe not the man his papa had thought he’d become. Nonetheless, he was able to slowly project himself as a more responsible and decisive individual. (The young man even loved to call himself “the Decider”. Whatever he decided--he stuck to this thought through thick and thin!).

Decades after his time in isolation and treatment “W” would eventually become the president of the United States.

Meanwhile, one might ask, "Who are his real handlers?"

See this article for more on Bush’s past:
including the fact that for 300 days Lt. Bush missed of active duty in 1972.

Scene 9 (combining current film footage and Mobiot’s text)

It is now 2007, and the President of the U.S.—and his handlers—are now running the country called the United States of America.

They continually mistake meanness for strength and mistake lack of ruthlessness for weakness. This is the way they were all moulded. (But, who did the moulding?)

“How did we come to this?”--you might ask.

Here is one answer from George Monbiot :“President Bush maintains that he is fighting a war against threats to the ‘values of civilized nations’: terror, cruelty, barbarism and extremism. He asked his nation's interrogators to discover where these evils are hidden. They should congratulate themselves. They appear to have succeeded.”

In short, if mind control and behavioral manipulation worked for George W. himself, why shouldn’t it work for a whole nation?

This is a scary thought. It is also fiction, but it certainly verges on fact.

Please connect the dots for yourself—before its too late!

For more on George W. Bush’s praise for behavioral and mind control leadership, see this article and check out the related website on mind control and freedom: http://www.freedomofmind.com/stevehassan/presskit/articles/parry.htm



Thursday, January 11, 2007



I wrote in Part 1 of this ongoing article about the continuing bad effects of terrorism on Bali. Sadly, since I last wrote many natural and man-made disasters have combined to kill more than a thousand Indonesians in the past two weeks. Luckily Bali was spared in these events. (Although with one live volcano and many geographical similarities to Krakatoa, this situation could all change some day.)

Last week, in one terrible storm a airline plane in Indonesia disappeared from the face of the earth leaving one-hundred people missing—and their families grieving. Meanwhile, a series of monsoon-like storms had also left hundreds of others dead when mudslides hit their villages. Further, over five hundred more died in an overloaded ferry disaster—also due to the storms and bad management of ferries.

All these were avoidable disasters. If local and national governments would ensure that safety comes first in all these communities—communities of aviation, communities of villages, and communities of travelers--, more people would be alive in 2007.


I was extremely fortunate to have been able to travel and stay in Sri Lanka in late January through early February 2006. This is certainly because poor Sri Lankan life has gone into a tailspin with bombings and firefights taking place on a weekly basis in and around many regions of the country in the past 11 months.

I had wanted to visit the country one year earlier, but in the immediate wake of the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami of Christmas 2004, I instead had determined to send donations to the region through organizations, like Mennonite Disaster Relief and HOPE Worldwide.

Significantly, I arrived in the country on the day of the first terrorist bombing in Colombo in many years. This would prove to be the first of many in 2006. Interestingly, at the time, that bombing was associated more with local mafia types than with either Tamil Tiger or pro-Lankan partisans. (The new Sri Lankan government had promised a crack-down on organized crime.)

Personally, my journeys to Kandy and the central parts of the Sri Lankan island were days of extreme calm and safety. I was able to visit the most beautiful botanical garden I had ever seen. I also loved watching the elephants from the elephant orphanage taking their daily baths in the local rivers. I also climbed Lion Rock and traveled to one of the nations capitals before taking the railroad back south to where Tsunami damage had been felt so badly.

Meanwhile, there were rumblings of the impending collapse of the Norwegian brokered peace to the North—especially strong saber rattling from the Tamil side was shown as the government in torn bore its teeth. In short, the Tamil Tigers appeared to desire to rewrite the earlier peace accords that had brought the civil-war-tattered land a reprieve four years earlier. On the other hand, by February 2006, most of the Lankans in the South seemed to already have hardened their position against a North Ireland-type solution to the 25-plus years of Civil War.

Nonetheless, while I was finally visiting the Tsunami damaged southeastern coast of the heavily Buddhist island of Sri Lanka, I still was holding out hope for progress towards greater peace and development for the great majority of otherwise peace-loving folks of that Indian Ocean island.


On my journey around the isle, I discovered the wonderful history of that land’s great dam builders--a history dating back nearly 3 millennia. For example, I learned that one of the islands finest emperors over 2200 years earlier had once proclaimed as his national policy: “Not a drop of water shall reach the sea without it first being used by man.” This approach to monsoon rains and water conservation had created the most advance nation of engineering (outside possibly Egypt and China) that likely existed on earth before the Roman era (or even before the 19th century of industrialized Europe).

Evidence of this greatness was revealed around 1970 when Canadian engineers acknowledged that after years of research, satellites were then confirming that the damn builders of ancient Lanka had known how to select and build earthen damn sites every bit as thoroughly as 20th Century engineers had become able to do. Many large 2000-plus year-old dams near the ancient capital still function--and are gorgeous to look at.

In short, the great tear-dropped island of Sri Lanka has had a positive history of trying to control water.

Alas, the modern island country of Sri Lanka was not prepared—as we all know—for the Wall of Water that hit it on December 26, 2004.


I spent the last week of my time in Sri Lanka staying at a resort located on a short rise west of the Muslim village called Hambotota. Some 13 months after the Tsunami hit, life in Hambotota revealed numerous tents and temporary structures, which had been built through donations from the countries around the world, including donations from Kuwait. On the other hand, even though some people still lived in tents at that late date in the area, many houses had been built, too, by several different NGOs. Unfortunately, these new abodes were along way from the residents’ traditional dwellings and places of employment.

The south of the country of Sri Lanka consists largely of Buddhists, but the great brunt of destruction from the Tsunami in the southeast of the country had occurred in many of the mostly Islamic settlements, like in the town of Hambotota. On a one day-tour east of Hambotota, I visited the remains of the foundation of a large tourist cabin in a National Park famous for lions. Over 60 tourists (& park animals) and local Sri Lankans had been washed away there in and around that cabin on Boxer Day 2004.

The ruins of that tourist cabin was a pretty sobering site to see, especially as this cabin was situated nearly 150 meters from the shoreline. Nevertheless, the rise of the shore from the sea at that location is extremely gradually or non-existent. That one great tidal wave had simply washed unstopped inland a number of kilometers-erasing all animals in its path.

Two days prior to visiting that national park, as I walked along the shore at the foot of my own hotel on that southern coast, I had discovered myself pulled down into the sea by the tentacle of a quick and tremendously strong rip-tide. (I’m a heavy guy and can swim fairly well. I thought, “If a simple rip-tide can drag me towards the sea, what chance did those poor souls on December 26, 2004 have?”)

Between Christmas and New Year, those unfortunate people in that National Park along with over 50,000 other Sri Lankans had lost there lives. Sadly, not only do their families miss them, but far too many of their surviving family members still have no home as 2007 dawns. For example, in Hambotota, a township of over 30,000, I could find no person who had not lost one or more family members on December 26, 2004.


On the other hand, there were a lot of new boats along the coast. People around the globe had pitched in (and with the help of NGOs) bought a great number of small fishing boats. I took pictures of many of these boats and a few fisherman during my time in the southeast of Sri Lanka..

Alas, I quickly came to question the procedure or development strategy by which many of these boats—often painted blue and yellow—were being distributed.

That is because in some cases only certain wealthier families received boats while others received none. On the surface, this simply developed from the fact that the poorest peoples in the country had had no boats before the tsunami. Therefore, despite the fact that many had lost their tourism and restaurant related jobs, they had no claim to new boats—even if the family needed the work/wages of fishing much more than before as often several key breadwinners had lost their lives in the Great Tsunami.

On the other hand, tourist-oriented proprietors and service industry owners—such as restaurant owners and owners of recreational locations affected adversely by lack of tourism in Sri Lanka—often did, in fact, receive boats even though they had not owned boats previously.

The rationale of governments and some NGOs is that they recognized that these surviving owners of washed-away property were entrepreneurial spirits who needed a new way to earn money--as it would be impossible for a decade to rebuild infrastructure (and before many few tourists would be able to show up). This was because, overall, the infrastructure for tourism had been washed away.

Owners and dependent labor would not be able to rebuild their restaurants or facilities so close to the sea ever again. Nonetheless, I felt it unfair to restrict boat ownership (of donated boats) in many cases to the countries wealthier classes—leaving the poorest fisherman still as day laborers, regardless of the numbers of years of experience these same poorer fisherman had gained serving other wealthier owners of boats prior to the tsuname.

In short, underdevelopment was being perpetuated for some by such narrow minded development policies and practices. No wonder a chasm had grown in the sense of unity or cohesion among the coastal Lankans in the more sparsely populations hit hardest by the Great Natural Calamity of 2004.


Meanwhile I thought of the wise hotel architects, such as the own who had built my coastal resort and at the spa on a hill. That is, where I was staying, structures/facilities were located on a rise of land that served as a bull-work against one of the greatest Tsunamis in the history of mankind. The rise of the hill was no much more thirty feet higher than the sea to its south, but that was sufficient to have left the resort undamaged That simple understanding of engineering, water and the power of the sea had saved the resort. (Consequently, the resort had served numerous NGOs as home base during the first months after the Tsunami.)

I thought, “This simple wisdom concerning the importance of locating a building properly to withstand and conserve nature’s water—and other forces of nature--is as old as society is on this island.”

I ask myself, “How is it that so many people in coastal regions around the globe--from Texas to Florida to Sri Lanka—have forgotten the simple wisdom of their forefathers? I.e. location is everything.”

As an educator, I have to call all others around the globe to WISE UP! We need to demand that basic common sense be used in the construction of all future habitats on earth. If we don’t educate and demand good standards and good governance concerning habitats, disasters will continue to wash us, our dreams, and our children’s dreams away—just as the national planners allowed happen recently in New Orleans, USA.

Let’s being demanding in 2007 good (and better) education, better policies, better practices, and good investment in our children’s future: STOP THE MEDIOCRITY in thinking, planning, and governance that is washing away our lands and futures around the globe each year!