An Interview With a Citizen Translator and American Hero
As reported by the Kansas City Channel, a revolutionary concept is taking place in the United States’ release of documents obtained during the invasion of Iraq on a government web site.
The federal government is making public a huge trove of documents seized during the invasion of Iraq, posting them on the Internet in a step that is at once a nod to the Web's power and an admission that U.S. intelligence resources are overloaded.
Republican leaders in Congress pushed for the release, which was first proposed by conservative commentators and bloggers hoping to find evidence about the fate of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, or possible links to terror groups.
The Web surfers have begun posting translations and comments, digging through the documents with gusto. The idea of the government turning over a massive database to volunteers is revolutionary -- and not only to them.
"Let's unleash the power of the Internet on these documents," said House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. "I don't know if there's a smoking gun on WMD or not. But it will give us a better understanding of what was going on in Iraq before the war."
One such Web surfer referenced above is Joseph Shahda, who has already translated ten of these documents as of this writing and vows to continue on until the deed is done.
Shahda is originally from Lebanon, having come to the United States in 1994 during his early twenties. He has lived in the United States for the last twelve years. Shahda is a Christian and speaks Arabic and English fluently.
A denizen of the conservative web site Free Republic, Shahda’s profile lists the documents that he has already translated, fully ten of them.
In Shahda’s own words:
I feel a great sense of duty to do the translation of some these documents because that is the least I can do in time of war to serve the United States of America to whom I am in eternal debt and gratitude, and what I am doing is a small pay back toward this debt that I can never fully repay no matter what I do. My efforts to do the translation pale in comparison to the great efforts and sacrifice that our brave troops are doing on a daily basis.
I asked Shahda during a phone interview with him on March 29, 2006, why he thought the government didn’t translate the documents.
Joseph said doing translations on the many thousands of documents would use up too many of limited government resources. He also feels that our government has moved beyond Saddam Hussein, that the lack of massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction was somewhat of an embarrassment best not dwelt on. Shahda also suggested that government bureaucrats in agencies that would be charged with this task tend to be somewhat arrogant, deeming the job beneath them and not worth the bother.
I’d have to agree with Joseph in that Arab-English translators are at a premium and likely needed more in the ongoing conflict in the Mid-east than in the translation of documents from times passed. In addition, each translation might require at least two translations of each document to insure accuracy.
Some would argue this is also an issue with citizen translators but Joseph assured me that he is extremely careful with his translations and welcomes any additional translations alongside his own. In fact I was privy to a FreeRepublic thread in which Joseph made a typing error, of all things, in his translation. He omitted the word “not” in a sentence. Shahda immediately informed the FreeRepublic moderators of the error. It was quickly corrected and any comments made based on his typing error were removed from the thread. I was impressed with the speed with which all this was handled and the care taken by both Joseph and FreeRepublic to insure the data was accurate. The entire episode left me with a confident feeling of credibility on the matter. I’d argue we are in the midst of some serious history-making and we are learning as we go.
I asked Shahda which of his then ten translations were most startling to him.
Joseph indicated the following two translations:
Saddam Regime Document: Iraqi Intelligence met with Bin Laden in 1995 and Afghani Taliban Consul Spoke of a Relationship Between Iraq and Bin Laden
With each translation, Shahda includes the Pentagon number assigned to the document and provides details about what sort of document is being translated, whether a memo or a letter on official letterhead. He indicates which paragraphs he is translating by meticulous paragraph lettering and details who wrote the letter and to whom it is addressed. If the document being translated is vague or unclear in terms of recipient or writer, Shahda so states. Joseph is very careful to make it clear to the reader only what he translates and avoids any editorial insertion into his translations.
In response to my question about his thoughts on whether the United States can win the Iraq war, Shahda stated emphatically that the United States is already winning the war.
“We are winning the Iraq war, let’s start with this fact,” Shahda stated with a passion. “and we are going towards a result of victory”.
Joseph then explained that there are perhaps thirty to forty thousand terrorists against 140,000 U.S. troops. There are 230,000 Iraqi troops working with the U.S. plus 30,000-40,000 coalition troops. Shahda says the numbers are against the terrorists right from the start.
“I was in Lebanon during the bombing of the marine barracks,” Joseph explained. He described the dancing in the street by the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the attack, how they shouted with joy that they had beat the Americans. Only a loss of American resolve can cause us to lose the war, Shahda explained. This from a man who witnessed what happens when America doesn’t fight back.
We discussed the ominous situation in Iran and Joseph felt that while America could flatten Iran easily, he didn’t think this would be necessary. “The Iranian people are wonderful and hate the regime governing them,” he said. Joseph expressed joy over the recent “Cedar Revolution” in his own country and stated firmly that such a thing would never have happened were it not for America being involved in the mess that is the Mid-east. He believed that American presence and resolve could well cause an uprising in the Iranian citizenry given the right time and circumstance.
Joseph Shahda’s optimism and love for America was palpable. Just talking to him I felt my resolve toughen and my own love of my country of birth deepen. Everyday he sits down and begins more translations. I’d argue that Shahda’s meticulous efforts are far better than we could expect from the government bureaucrats.
These are historic times. This is a historic action by our government, this recruitment of citizens to aid in the proper documentation of history.
For what Shahda is revealing via his translations is how it really happened. Some might argue that the documents cannot be verified. Of course they can’t. They were captured during the turnover of a violent regime. Documents captured during W.W. II could not be verified, indeed, any documents obtained in this manner are what they are: details of a government that is no more. Common sense should dictate that Saddam’s dying regime had better things to do than create forgeries of thousands and documents, letters and memos. To argue that the American administration might have foisted false documents on the American public is to also run roughshod over common sense. Both Saddam and the United States simply had more important issues than bothering with this sort of silliness.
History is being made by the likes of Joseph Shahda and other bloggers who are on top of this.
Citizens are doing the grunt work and citizens will decide, on the common sense that helps us carry this country on our collective backs, what to believe. We run this country. We can figure it out.
With a little help from dedicated souls like Joseph Shahda.
Below, the remaining documents and links translated by Shahda as of this writing:
More Editorials HERE
Seems that there’s a thriving industry in Iraq that involves kidnapping and blackmail ransom. Seems a quartet of peace activists got themselves kidnapped this past November. The American member of the quartet was found in Baghdad, murdered with signs of torture. So these Iraqi “criminals” are not all bluff and bluster.
This past week, coalition forces stormed the place where the remaining trio were being held and rescued them. It turned out that their kidnappers were not around during the rescue attempt but that was a lucky fate. Given that the American met not such a happy fate, there was some danger to the rescuers.
Yet two of those rescued, Canadians as facts would have it, are not helping their rescuers with any facts about their captors, not to mention not a whisper of gratitude either from the Christian organization that sponsored them or the two Canadians rescued.
Two things strike me as very un-Christian like. Gratitude is such a simple thing. It costs no money and is the proper thing to do. Next, kidnappers, admitted criminals after ransom money, are not good people. They are not even, go with me here, patriotic Iraqis out to save their homeland from the invading infidels. If these fine Canadian men had been robbed at gunpoint from a thief wanting their wallets, wouldn’t they cooperate with the police in finding these criminals?
I’d add an obvious third fact here, that these fine Iraqi “businessmen” might kidnap another Christian visitor to Iraq, indeed, another well-meaning missionary of good will could end up shot and tortured like the American fellow.
Americans, hey, they understand simple things like a sincere thank-you. By their behavior these “Christians” are showing their true colors. The criminals who kidnapped them and held them against their will at least are honest about their motives and intentions. These Canadian Christians preach one thing and practice another.
I suppose we’ll soon see the books and movies and the money will flow.
This shut-mouth thing might keep American bucks far away.
From the U.K. Telegraph:
Neither the men nor the Canadian group that sent them to Iraq have thanked the people who saved them in any of their public statements.
One of them, Norman Kember, 74, a retired physics professor, of Pinner, north-west London, was in Kuwait last night and was expected to return to Britain today. He is understood to have given some helpful information.
He provided details of the semi-rural area north-west of Baghdad where he was held and confirmed that his captors were criminals, rather than insurgents. Their motive was believed to be money.
The two Canadians kidnapped with Mr Kember - Harmeet Sooden, 32, and Jim Loney, 41 - were said to have been co-operative at first but less so on arriving at the British embassy in Baghdad after being given the opportunity to wash, eat and rest.
Previous hostages have been questioned on everything from what shoes their kidnappers wore to the number of mobile phones they had. The pacifist Christian Peacemaker Teams with which the men were visiting Iraq is opposed to the coalition's presence and has accused it of illegally detaining thousands of Iraqis.
Airman’s Remains Found After 63 Years
It’s not clear where this young Air Force fellow was headed or even why he was alone, when he took off in his plane in 1942. Wherever he was headed, it certainly wasn’t towards a glacier high in the mountains of California.
His remains and parts of the ancient airplane were recovered.
Leo Mustonen will now be buried in his home town of Brainerd, Minn.
May he rest in peace. Finally.
Leo Mustonen was 22 when his AT-7 navigational plane disappeared after taking off from a Sacramento, Calif., airfield on Nov. 18, 1942.
An engine, scattered remains and clothing were found over the following years, far from the plane's intended course, but Mustonen remained missing until last year, when two mountain climbers in California spotted an arm jutting out of the ice.
Authorities in October were able to chip out the remarkably well-preserved body of an airman who was carrying a fountain pen, an unused parachute and 51 cents in dimes, nickels and pennies dated between 1920 and 1942. There was a metal badge attached to his brown U.S. Army Air Forces uniform, but it was heavily corroded.
It took forensic scientists at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii examining the bones, DNA samples and the airman's teeth to officially declare the body as Mustonen.
Mustonen's relatives felt it was important for him to return to Brainerd and be buried with his parents, said the Rev. Andy Smith. Smith was asked to preach at the funeral Friday before Mustonen' burial in the same cemetery as his family.
Leane Mustonen Ross, the airman's niece, said there was no question about bringing him home after the anguish the family suffered not knowing what had happened to him.
It's “certainly nice to know he won't be left alone up in the mountains in a pile of snow,” she said in a recent interview. “It's good to give him a decent burial.”
It’s not that I have no empathy for hefty Wynonna Judd, having fought the fat fight for so many years myself. It’s just that I’m skeptical that taking more calories in than expanded in physical energy is an addiction.
In that, hold on before unleashing the compassion police, addiction is a syndrome that involves a compulsion to engage in behaviors caused by some sort of physiological dependency. All animals have a physiological dependency on food and that’s a fact.
Continuing on with the logic, it’s possible that a physiological dependency only on foods that have excess calories is plausible. If denial of such foods resulted in severe pain, possibly death. Which is the case with a heroin addiction but not, go with me here, with an “addiction” to strawberry shortcake.
Whatever the case and whatever a lack of control and discipline is called nowadays, we wish Wynonna Judd well in her endeavor to rid herself of her “need for food” disorder.
We note, with a wry smile, that as part of Judd’s “rehabilitation” she was forbidden from the very foods she loves.
Back in my day we called that a diet.
Judd Tackles Food Addiction in Rehab
Country star Wynonna Judd has tackled her food addiction problems head on -- by spending 42 days in rehab.
The singer checked into the Shades of Hope clinic in Buffalo Gap, Texas, on January 8 after realizing her constant need for food was a disorder.
Judd has since lost 30 pounds and she's now determined to live a healthier life.
She says, "I just didn't want to come into 2006 like I had so many years of
just being so tired. I just wasn't able to really take care of myself like I
needed to and I couldn't figure out what was wrong.
"(Going into rehab) was like going to college and learning why it is such an
addiction. I learned about myself ... why I do the things I do. We are so distracted by so much in life. I slowed down to a pace where I could think thoughts, feel things."
Judd admits the rehab experience was tough -- she was forbidden from snacking on the things she loves.
Is Skin From Dead Chinese Prisoners in Your Make-Up?
We’re not making this up. And that Chinese cosmetics company’s (un-named) spokesperson is anything but clear on whether the process of using the skin of dead prisoners for its make-up line is under research or currently part of their smashing peach blush.
The company’s “agent” does say, with a quip, that he has no idea why anyone would be upset about this practice as such as using the skin from condemned convicts was not worth making “such a big fuss about”.
First, the quote says the prisoners had been shot. As with a gun. We don’t know what sort of justice they may have received. China is well-known for jailing, perhaps shooting, dissidents. Second, the ultimate depravity, way beyond Google blocking Chinese ISP’s from accessing sites with references to freedom and other nasty vocabulary, is for western women, ever in search for everlasting beauty, to use make-up in any way altered, aided or abetted with the skin of dead Chinese prisoners. This whole thing has an inhumane and uncivilized aspect to it that should not be encouraged.
From World Tribune.com:
A Chinese cosmetics company has been using skin taken from the bodies of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, a London newspaper reported.
An agent for the company informed customers it is developing collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments from skin taken from prisoners after they had been shot.
The agent said some of the company‘s products have been exported to Britain, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts was “traditional" and nothing to “make such a big fuss about,“ the Guardian reported In addition to ethical concerns, there is the potential risk of infection from the harvested skin products.
The company was not identified by name for legal reasons and it is unclear whether collagen made from the skin of prisoners was in the research stage or in actual production.
“A lot of the research is still carried out in the traditional manner using skin from the executed prisoners and aborted fetus," the agent was quoted as saying. The material, he said, was being bought from “biotech" companies based in Heilongjiang Province and was being developed elsewhere in China.
He suggested that the use of skin and other tissues harvested from executed prisoners was not uncommon. “In China it is considered very normal and I was very shocked that Western countries can make such a big fuss about this," he said.
Dick Cheney’s “Suite” Demands
Rock stars and various other celebrities regularly broadcast their hotel requirements in advance of visits for performances in faraway regions. Some require only specific M&M colors are to be provided and bath water must always be Evian.
This past week all the scoop was the release of VP Dick Cheney’s requirements for hotel rooms.
The SmokingGun.com obtained an advance copy of Cheney’s list of hotel accoutrements from a loyal member of Cheney’s staff and goodness to read it one would get bored.
An actual picture of Cheney’s advance notice is provided in the link above. It includes such as 4 cans of Diet Sprite, a carafe of coffee, temperature of the suite at a cool 68 degrees, and goodness, a bed. Oh, and all TV’s must be tuned to Fox News. Heh.
The document, prepared by the vice president's advance team, was obtained by TSG after it was provided to a hotel employee prior to a Cheney visit. When we asked Cheney spokesperson Jenny Mayfield about the document's reference to gifts that hotels might leave in the suite for the vice president, she told us she was unable to address that question since she had not seen the "downtime requirements" rider (she asked for a copy, which we declined to provide in advance of its publication here). At our source's request, we've blacked out the handwritten name and Washington, D.C. phone number of a Cheney staffer. As for the notations regarding extra lamps, specific newspapers, and a carafe, it is unclear whether they were added by an advance team staffer or a hotel official. (1 page)
Katrina, the Dog, Honored for Saving Life During Hurricane
There’s not much good news coming from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But the tale of the Labrador retriever, now named Katrina, saving the life of a man by pulling him from flooding waters to higher ground, is a heart-warming one.
All hail to man’s best friend.
From the GrandparentsRus email list:
LOS ANGELES (March 19) - A Labrador retriever who saved a man from drowning in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina received a standing ovation on Saturday night at an awards dinner attended by leading animal rights supporters.
The dog, now called Katrina, was brought on stage and named guest of honor at the 20th annual Genesis Awards, given by the Humane Society of the United States to those who help advance the cause of animal rights.
Katrina the dog was featured on a report from Los Angeles television station KCAL. The man she rescued told how the black dog helped pull him from the flood to higher ground and credited her with saving his life.
WAPO Right Wing Blogger Quits Amidst Fury
The story of Ben Domenech, recruited by the WAPO to write for a conservative blog the vaunted newspaper would sponsor, rages on. This story was covered more extensively by Blogcritic Scott Butki.
First, the notion of the Washington Post sponsoring a conservative blog is big news right there. Although I think it’s a fine idea, I must wonder if this isn’t a preliminary attempt by the ancient print media to recruit people of conservative thought that it can’t find within its own staff. It is also an indicator of the print media’s attempts to get out in the Blogosphere and become part of the national discourse swirling around them but not covered in their daily newspapers.
So the WAPO goes and recruits a blogger of conservative idealology and the guy has an extensive history of plagiarizing the work of others! Don’t believe Domenech’s lament that the left-wing bloggers would go after him, as if he is as innocent as the driven snow. The evidence against Domenech is very damning. The man had to know it.
Let’s hope the WAPO doesn’t give up on this project and goes out to find another conservative blogger to lead their conservative blog site. If they look hard enough they might find a fine female conservative blogger who has never plagiarized a thing in her life.
In his first public comments since resigning earlier today as a blogger for washingtonpost.com, Ben Domenech says his editors there were “fools” for not expecting an onslaught of attacks from the left.
“While I appreciated the opportunity to go and join the Washington Post,” Domenech said, “if they didn’t expect the leftists were going to come after me with their sharpened knives, then they were fools.”
Domenech has been under a steady stream of criticism since washingtonpost.com launched the new blog, “Red America,” on Tuesday. Domenech, an editor at Regnery Publishing (a sister company to HUMAN EVENTS), was accused of plagiarism by several left-wing blogs.
Lee Greenwood and Other Celebrities to Entertain the Troops
There is no greater song, by me, than Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be An American”. I loved that song long before it was cool to do so. In a bow to Mr. Greenwood’s efforts to lift the morale of our mighty fighting army, we note that he and others will be going overseas to do just that.
From the AF.Mil:
Joining Mr. Greenwood will be country-rockers Restless Heart, New England Patriot Cheerleaders, comedian Dick Hardwick and musicians from the Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band, the Band of the Pacific and the United States Air Force Band.
Called the Patriotic World Tour, the group will perform at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; Kunsan AB, Korea; Kadena AB and Misawa AB, Japan; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; and at least three deployed locations in Southwest Asia.
The Dixie Chicks Try It Again
They’ll not be singing with the Patriotic World Tour referenced above. That would be too much.
I chuckle as I remember the endless debates on the “fairness” of country-western radio stations across the fruited plains yanking any songs from the Dixie Chicks from their play list. As if the pundits have any control on such decisions of private companies who will suffer loss of audience for such decisions with no need for commentary from the elite who condemn this action as an affront to free speech.
One of this singing trio told a foreign audience that she was ashamed that President Bush was from her home state of Texas. Now go with me on this: a country-western music audience is not likely to take kindly to this kind of sentiment, especially when this brave singer didn’t have the courage to say it on her own shores.
Kinda like Barney spouting about how he hates kids and thinks they all should be shot.
Even with all the pontificating from the elite pundits about fairness and free speech, well has anyone heard much from the Dixie Chicks lately?
Not to fear. They’re trying it again and it’s back to the same old song. Their next song is said to be autobiographical, titled “Not Ready to Make Nice”.
Good luck you girls. The pundits will take your side yet again but silly Americans, they’ll still not buy your records. And no one can make them.
But the Chicks' new single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," is now in rotation in several major markets, pushing it to No. 36 on Billboard's country singles chart after its first full week of airplay. Other stations, however, have been slower to embrace it.
"I think a lot of people are in a wait-and-see mode," said Wade Jessen, director of Billboard's country charts. "The next couple of weeks are really going to tell the tale."
Maines told a London audience on the eve of the war in Iraq that the group was "ashamed" the president was from their home state of Texas.
Back in the U.S., their music was boycotted and the Chicks said they received death threats, leading them to install metal detectors at their shows.
Maines later said she regretted the phrasing of her remark, but remained passionately against the war. In January she told Entertainment Weekly magazine that she was disappointed with country music and that she's "pretty much done" with the genre.
More Gossip/Speculation HERE