Bruce Harold Smith, the executive director, just returned from a rowing trip in northern Iraq, where he helped train Olympic rowing coaches and rowers. Smith worked with young Iraqi rowers on Lake Dokan in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq. The rowers came from throughout the country, and included Sunnis and Shi'ites as well as Kurds. Erbil has remained an oasis of relative calm in the seven years since US forces invaded the country in 2003.
Smith traveled with a rowing comrade, Bill Engeman of Ohio, another long-time rowing booster, for the five-day visit to Erbil. Engeman came up with the idea after seeing "Invictus," the movie about the South African rugby team's unlikely victory in the 1995 World Cup, shortly after the fall of white-minority rule.
My former Globe colleague Tom Palmer, who works with Community Rowing on communication, has written a detailed and compelling account of this initiative. Click on the "full entry" link below for Tom's full version:
Conflict Management Group, a non-profit based in Cambridge, has been training Iraqis in negotiation skills since 2006, with promising results. The Iraqi mediators have helped people address disputes ranging from small arguments between neighbors to potentially deadly political battles and kidnappings.
I wrote in the Globe today about this Iraq mediation project, and about the broader mediation industry that has mushroomed in the last 40 or so years in the Boston area.
There wasn't space for these images of one negotiation in progress, in Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad, in the summer of 2008. The photos were taken by Sa'ad al-Khalidy, the mediation program coordinator in Iraq for Mercy Corps, which merged with CMG four years ago. They give a clear sense of the interplay between the locak sheiks and tribal officials as they tackle a dispute over a plot of inherited land.
The caption for the main picture illustrating the story omits the nice detail that the current coordinator for the Iraq program at CMG, Arthur Martirosyan, is shown in front of a portrait of Roger Fisher, taken in the stately Roger Fisher House in Cambridge. Fisher is the lengendary Harvard Law School professor who wrote "Getting to Yes" in 1981, the best-selling, user-friendly manual on managing conflict that captured the essence of years of his scholarly thinking. Fisher went on to found CMG in 1984, and has taken part in mediating many global conflicts around the world, from Northern Ireland to Latin America and South Africa.
Few American diplomats have played as central a role in the Middle East and South Asia as Ryan Crocker. So he will be poised to share some up-close insights when he speaks at a public forum today at the Kennedy School of Government.
Crocker's 4 p.m. address, in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, is sponsored by the Kennedy school's Institute of Politics, and will be moderated by Professor Graham Allison, who heads the school's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Crocker was US ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, during the surge led by General David Petraeus and the shift by Iraqi Sunnis to turn against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Before that, he was US ambassador To Pakistan for three crucial years, from 2004 to 2007.
See the IOP's web site for more details.
UMass-Boston Professor Padraig O'Malley, who has spent decades helping reconcile divided societies from Ireland to South Africa, will speak about his experiences at a forum Sunday at Cape Cod Community College.
O'Malley has just returned from another trip to Iraq, where he has worked since 2007 to facilitate negotiations among the Kurdish factions in the north as well as among Sunnis and Shi'ites in the Arab heartland.
O'Malley is the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of Peace and Reconciliation at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the UMass-Boston campus. Earlier this year, he hosted a conference that brought together people from five of the world's divided cities, including Belfast in Northern Ireland, and Nicosia in Cyprus.
Born in Dublin, O'Malley has written several books about the principles and practice of negotiation and conflict resolution. The talk is at 2 p.m. Sunday Sept. 20, at the Tilden Arts Center, Cape Cod Community College, 2240 Iyannough Rd. Hyannis, MA 02668.
UMass Boston professor Padraig O'Malley laid a wreath today at the site of a bombing in Iraq that killed at least 72 people last month which appeared to be aimed at fomenting ethnic tensions in the volatile Kirkuk region.
Kirkuk is one of five “divided” cities participating in a peace forum established in Boston by O'Malley this past April. Elected representatives from Kirkuk visited Massachusetts this past April to learn about how Boston had overcome violence and division during the busing crisis of the 1970s.
The group toured Boston neighborhoods that had been impacted by violence, led by Robert Lewis Jr., the Boston Foundation’s vice president, whose home was fire-bombed in 1976, presumably because his family were the first blacks to move into a white housing project in Maverick.
Other participants included representatives from Mitrovica, a city divided between Kosovo and Serbia; Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, claimed by both Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities; and Derry/Londonderry and Belfast, in Northern Ireland.
After the meeting in Boston, the group pledged to meet annually and share experiences.
O’Malley traveled to Kirkuk after a series of deadly bombings to read a letter of condolence to Kirkuk’s Provincial Council from the group.
“When one of you dies, all of us die a little, too,” he said. “We stand with you in resolute solidarity.”
Kirk Johnson is one of the Boston-area people reaching out to help others who are far from most Americans' minds, but who remain in grave danger for what they did for the United States.
My Globe colleague, Linda Matchan, profiled Johnson and his work in a powerful story on the front page of Tuesday's paper.
Johnson, who lives in Somerville, has helped hundreds of Iraq translators, embassy workers and others who put their lives on the line during the US occupation. He is angry that only 600 such Iraqis were admitted to the United States last year even though legislation permits 5,000 visas for these people each year.
After working in Iraq following the fall of Baghdad, and struggling to hold his own life together, Johnson plunged into helping those who had helped the United States but were under threat of assassination in their home country. Matchan tells the remarkable, inspiring story of Johnson's achievements, and the work that still lies ahead.
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, who returned home Saturday from a six-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, says US military officers and Iraqis are committed to meeting the Obama Administration's timetable for withdrawing American combat forces by the end of August next year.
The Lowell Democrat told reporters in a conference today that American commanders are focused on two interim steps -- withdrawing US combat forces from Iraqi cities by the end of June, and then facilitating nationwide legislative elections in December. If both are successful, it will be easier for other elements to fall into place to allow the withdrawal to conclude successfully next year, she said.
Tsongas, the daughter of a US Air Force colonel, led the six-member congressional delegation from the House Armed Services Committee. They met with General Ray Odierno and other senior US officers in Iraq, and discussed some of the impediments to a withdrawal, including a spurt in suicide bombings and delays in integrating Sunni militiamen into the Shiite-led government. She also said the fall in oil prices has crimped the Iraqi government's ability to keep investing in basic services and upgrading technology.
|Tsongas wins office in 2007 special election|
Broadly, though, she said she found wide acceptance of the timetable among the US commanders and Iraqi politicians, even with the recent upsurge in violence. She said she heard the message that "the timetable puts tremendous pressure on the US and Iraq to resolve these issues in a timely way, and everyone is working on achieving that."
"I always advocated a shorter timetable. But I'm grateful to see a timetable that everyone is taking quite seriously. you sense that in the air," she added.
In Afghanistan, she said US officers are preparing quickly to absorb the additional 17,000 troops being deployed there by President Obama to contain a renewed Taliban offensive in the south of the country.
In the southern city of Kandahar, she said US officers acknowledged that the "surge" could lead to increased US casualties. She also heard concerns that the US will struggle to increase its civilian expertise in parallel with the military surge because of a lack of investment in the US foreign service in recent years.
She said that in Kuwait, she visited a facility where workers are hurriedly refurbishing hundreds of mine-resistant armored vehicles, known as MRAPs, that were used in Iraq and now are being sent to Afghanistan.
She said she drove one, and found they are not easy to drive -- they can flip over if turned too quickly. She was impressed with the focus on training soldiers to drive them, and the effort to recondition them for the specific threats they will face in Afghanistan from roadside bombs and other attacks.
Retired Major General Antonio Taguba, who wrote the Army's internal report on the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners, will speak at a forum at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at Austin Hall at Harvard Law School.
Physicians for Human Rights, the Cambridge-based organization, is a co-sponsor and describes the forum as an "afternoon of discussion, debate and dialogue on torture by US forces in the war against terror—and how we can hold accountable those who committed these heinous crimes."
Taguba wrote an internal US Army report in 2004 on detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. He has testified before Congress on the issue of detainee abuse, and in the preface of the 2008 Physicians for Human Rights publication Broken Laws, Broken Lives he wrote that "...there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] Administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
This event is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights, HLS ACLU, and the National Security and Law Association.
If American combat forces are able to get out of Iraq next year and to leave behind a relatively stable country, it'll be thanks in part to Marblehead's John Dunlop. Whatever you think of the war itself -- and Dunlop doesn't talk politics -- the work he is doing to help revive Iraq and get its institutions working again is a noteworthy example of Massachusetts people making their mark on the world.
I met Dunlop while he was on home leave, and stayed in touch with him on his return to Baghdad, where among other things he attended the final round of a poetry competition he had helped facilitate. Here's a link to the full article in the Sunday Globe, and here are a couple of snapshots of the poetry competition final taken by Dunlop's translator, Dhafer al Makuter.
After graduating from St. John's Prep in Danvers, Dunlop went on to an extraordinary career of helping improve health care for children, mothers and those afflicted with AIDS and other diseases in some of the most bereft corners of the world. He has lived in the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and southern Sudan, first for the Peace Corps and then for Catholic Relief Services and later the US Agency for International Development.
Last year he moved to Baghdad for USAID. He's been embedded at a forward base with a US Army brigade, working on community development projects in the Rashid district, in what was long one of the most violent sections of southern Baghdad, on the road to the Triangle of Death.
There are more than a dozen embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams, or ePRTs, in Iraq. They are part of the "surge" approved by President Bush in 2007 to try to to rescue the disastrous situation in Iraq, four years after the US invasion. Until then, the existing Provincial Reconstruction Teams were often confined to their bunkers, and lacked the flexibility and mobility to work effectively. The ePRTs, stationed with Marine and Army brigades at forward bases, were meant to be far more responsive and to integrate the civilian and military efforts more effectively.
For a critique of US post-war strategy, and a glimpse of the role of the ePRTs, check out the recent report by the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, titled "Hard Lessons." It's a surprisingly readable assessment of the many failings of the post-war period, and the more recent success in reducing violence.
The civilian elements of the surge, including the expanded role of USAID, were far less controversial elements than the sharp increase in combat troop numbers. But the increased focus on improving governance and stability were core elements of the strategy envisioned by General David H. Petraeus, who was US commander in Iraq during the surge. He set the theoretical framework in his own counterinsurgency doctrine, written in 2006, promoting what he called "armed social work." Here's a link to that Field Manual 3-24.
Another useful source is the US Institute for Peace, the Congressionally funded agency which has studied the ePRTs.
For a clear-eyed look at the surge, its achievements and shortcomings, get hold of Washington Post military affairs reporter Thomas E. Ricks' new book, "The Gamble," which is winning as many plaudits as his first book on the war, "Fiasco." See excerpts from The Gamble in the Washington Post.
Finally, here are a couple more photos of John Dunlop in Baghdad.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
Is your organization holding an event? Post it on our calendar (use "worldlyboston" for the keyword).