Dial M for MJ

gold star mumYou didn’t like MJ did you ?

Well, when i say “you” i mean , most of you listening in the U.S- she didn’t seem to bother anyone else.

For those who didn’t hear the programme, MJ is a “Gold Star Mom” – that is, a woman who’s son died serving his country in Iraq.

We invited her on to the programme (she’s been on before) because we wanted to hear people who’s lives have been directly touched by the conflict.

She was on with WHYS regular Lubna , John – who served 4 years in Iraq , and Tahgreed, an Iraqi who has also lost loved ones during the war – they all have .

So that was the main cast – all invited by us, all touched very directly by the war, and all having been on the programme before.

Three of the 4 escaped criticism from you, but not MJ.

 Some of the attacks on her were just personal and offensive and i’m not going to dignify those with a reply – if you can’t be civil, please find another forum to vent your spleen – or better still, start your own !

So let’s deal with your other criticisms ;

* “MJ doesn’t represent our country “, ” How dare she speak for us” etc… : 

Well, no-one said she did represent  the U.S, she spoke only for herself just as the others did. Lubna wasn’t speaking for Iraq, but she is an Iraqi.  MJ wasn’t billed as anything other than a woman who’d lost her son during the conflict in Iraq. She doesn’t even speak for other Gold Star Moms.

* “She’s wrong about the war” , “she has an ideology that fails to allow her to understand what’s happened over the last 8 years “,  etc :

I’ll take a wild guess here but i’m betting that MJ didn’t vote Democrat last time (though i don’t know that – it’s a guess). She made it clear that despite the loss of her son, she supported the war, supported President Bush (who was, as i recall, elected twice, the second time even after the action in Iraq) and doesn’t much care for the current administration. Again, she’s not alone in that, but this seemed to be a step too far for a lot of you.

* “She’s patronisng, condescending” , “she has a high-handed manner” :

Fair enough, a lot of people blanched at the ” we didn’t send you a bill ” remark and when she asked whether Lubna wore a hijab, but Lubna didn’t.  Both MJ and Lubna were very happy afterwards and have – sperately- talked about the situation improving enough in Baghdad for us to do a programme there, with MJ taking part.

What struck me from your responses (in the main) was the almost total sympathy you have for Lubna and her losses and hardships,  (as all of us who have followed her story do) and how little you had for MJ and her loss – because you didn’t like her politics, or her manner.

Off you go, tell me i’m wrong.

87 Responses to “Dial M for MJ”

  1. 1 patti in cape coral
    July 1, 2009 at 12:21

    I also noticed most of the sympathy was with Lubna and not with MJ. I am among the number that was dismayed by the way MJ expressed herself, and I don’t agree with her at all, but as I said before, I think part of the reason she clings to a certain point of view is because it lends her son’s death some kind of meaning, and without that, maybe it would be unbearable.

    Also, even though I agree with most of what Lubna thinks, her phrase “annoying US troops” etc. was a little sad to read, and I’m sure was painful for some people. I didn’t feel like I could make much comment about it, however, because I have no idea what it is like to live under US occupation in Iraq, so I have to defer to her point of view on that.

    On the whole I agree with a lot of people who were incensed by MJs remarks, hoping that the world doesn’t think that all Americans feel the same way she does, but it did get pretty mean.

  2. 2 Steve in Boston
    July 1, 2009 at 12:42

    It was not MJ’s politics, it was her personality. Hard to believe someone from Idaho could come off sounding like Long Island. Even though I agree with much of the substance of what she said, I couldn’t stand listening to her and had to turn off the show before it was over.

    • 3 Jessica in NYC
      July 1, 2009 at 16:39


      I felt that way about some of the things Lubna wrote, but I thought she carried herself and her view point very well when she spoke. I agreed with some of the criticisms she had of Americans, but they way she phrased them in writing frustrated me.

      Re MJ: It was her attitude of “we saved you”.

  3. 4 patti in cape coral
    July 1, 2009 at 12:44

    I meant to add mean on the blog, sorry.

    • 5 simeon Banda
      July 3, 2009 at 16:44

      Mine is homosexuality issue as illegal. I think it is high time th world had taken a stand about it. legalising such unnatural habits is an insult with the law of natural. God was not a fool to create man and woman so that they could complement one another. If he had plans to create one gender group, then he would have used other means of making us multiply. He made Adam sleep so that he could make a companion from his rib, to complete him.
      I beg many countries to take the step of India in condemning homosexual unnatural acts which have no place in ” Normal human beings”
      When l see some christians marrying people in homosexual marriages, l doubt their source of information. Let us promote heterosexual marriage which is very natural to us. Homosexuality is insanity and should be eradicated as soon as possible.
      Simeon Banda, Kasungu, Malawi

  4. 6 Jim Newman
    July 1, 2009 at 13:02

    Hello again
    I think MJ was the woman who hogged the show yesterday. I didn’t know that she had lost a son in Iraq because I switched on a bit late. I sympathise with her and her fervent wish that her son did not die in vain. What struck me most was how effective modern brain washing technics are. MJ had no doubt at all that her son had died to save Iraqis. She was totally bemused when Lubna, in her gentle way, tried to present another view.
    There are other American mothers whose sons died in Iraq who are in no doubt that their sons lives were sacrificed on the alter of the corporate state. Maybe you should have invited one of those mothers on the show.
    I think what one should not forget, in all that, is that many Iraqi mothers have lost their sons as well.

  5. 7 Nigel
    July 1, 2009 at 13:17

    I thought that this blog was about differences in views and values and created a worldwide forum by which these differences could be discussed. I must say that the program moderator could have given her less space in time not content since she really didn’t say anything new afer the first two iterations. Different variations on the same theme. The other thing is that most people saw right through her and no one should take offense by the fact that she was saying it as she saw it…..that’s what the whole program is about……we don’t have to agree with one another and at the end of the day there is litte we can hide from each other in such an open forum.

  6. July 1, 2009 at 13:33

    Salaam Mark. Arabs say “Paradise is under the feet of mothers”, and MJ is a mom above all, her son was killed in a foreign country, and I can never imagine not even for one moment how is it like to be a mom whose son was killed, considering the fact that I come from Iraq (the country of 1 million widows and 5 millions orphans). I have to admit that at some points during the programme I felt that she was talking to me (as an Iraqi citizen who’s opposed to the American occupation of my country, not as Lubna personally) from “above” which made me really quite uncomfortable, but it’s alright, I’m neither angry nor upset. May Allah always bless you MJ, and may the soul of your son rest in peace, Amen. PS, to Patti in Cape Carol, thanks a million for your understanding.

  7. 9 steve
    July 1, 2009 at 13:34

    What upset me more was that people on the blog wanted her silenced simply because they didn’t agree with her. Maybe in Iran that happens, but not in the west. If you don’t like freedom of speech, please move to a totalitarian nation where they don’t allow it, otherwise you have to listen to things you don’t necessarily agree with.

    July 1, 2009 at 13:52


    Well, I did not post on that issue though I followed all the postings from all contributors. That said, I am disturbed by your choice of language especially the insinuation that those who posted against MJ were all from the Democratic Party. It is true that as listeners we sometimes take one side. In this way we are biased. But that does not exclude the station which can equally have biased agenda which can belittle the intelligence of the listeners.

    You could be angry as is apparent and I think you are right, but that is no language to use either. Take it somewhere else too.

    • 11 Henry Nyakoojo, Kampala
      July 1, 2009 at 15:22

      Mr. Njuguna, I cannot see where you get the notion that Mark even implied that MJ’s critics were democrats. I suspect that some were not even American.

  9. 12 anu_D
    July 1, 2009 at 14:01

    Hello Mark Sandell,

    The problem wasn’t with MJ……but with WHYS’s moderation and hosting that lacked control on air….the hostesses’s ability to sense and control timely a patronizing woman, shooting off the mouth, going on and on…

    MJ is who she is….you’ve gotta have screened and figured what she is like and be prpeared to control her on air.

    Actually you know what…in your heart you have figured the above…

    BUT by creating a thread in the guise of discussing and/ or defending MJ…..inviting readers to flog her more in public….you are attemtping to defelect the attention from WHYS’s weakness in controlign/ moderating the discussion on air.

    Clever ?

    Not Quite 😦

  10. 13 Justin from Iowa
    July 1, 2009 at 14:09

    Ros, its not hard to see why people in the US are so angry about this. WHYS is a venue where people “meet Americans”. When WHYS chooses to feature an American who, while we are sadenned by her loss, is completely uninformed and mis-informed about the world at large and condescending to the world at the same time, this projects an image of Americans which, in my case, infuriates me.

    Most Americans are not so blind as this, most Americans are not so condescending as this, Most Americans are better than this, but most Americans are labeled and viewed the way we are, because world news organizations choose to portray this caricature of America.

    I turned WHYS off, which saddens me because I DO want to hear Lubna and other’s perspectives from the region. But I wasn’t prepared to have to put up with everything else that went with it.

  11. 14 Afya (USA)
    July 1, 2009 at 14:32

    I agree that MJ sounded patronizng and condescending. She made comments that seemed to suggest what “WE” the US did all of these things for ‘you people’. “Your children are in school, you have running water”. What? Did she think that they didn’t have schools and running water before the war? Does she not know that in large measure it was ‘shock and awe’ that destroyed the infrastructure of the country? Of course we rebuilt schools and tried to “fancy up” the ones that remained because we were trying to get them to stop wanting to kill us and to work with us. Its like, if I drop a brick on your foot and break it, but then pay for your surgery to get it fixed afterwards, I say…”What are you complaining about? I paid for your surgery didn’t I? You should be thankful.” …. She sounded as if she was not very knowledgeable about Iraq or its cultural and economic history….only what someone else told her.
    I am a US Army Veteran.

  12. July 1, 2009 at 14:32

    Lubna and I do not agree on everything. In fact, there are wide gaps between us on certain political issues. Her personality, though, is warm and gracious. I don’t sense from her an attitude that Iraqis are better able to help people from other countries – Iran, for example – than the very citizens of that country themselves. Lubna is able to disagree with those whose worldviews don’t match hers without coming off as patronising or insisting that her view is right above all else.

    Why didn’t I respond to MJ’s loss? Perhaps for the same reason that I didn’t respond to the losses of Lubna and Taghreed: that simply was not my focus when I listened to the show’s archive. I was listening for their views on the drawback and perhaps an acknowledgement that the US has not actually ended the occupation and has not even removed all troops from Iraqi cities (they were merely re-named as “advisors” and “trainers”).

    I woke up this morning to a story of a Canadian teacher who cut off a student’s hair because he was trying to grow it for a First Nations dance ceremony. Today might just be Anti-Imperialism Day for me. A person can see all of the nice and agreable words possible, but when imperialist ideology seethes through those words, please don’t expect me to react nicely. I have a zero tolerance policy for imperialist supremacy attitudes.

  13. 17 RightPaddock
    July 1, 2009 at 14:44

    My issue is with the BBC World Service

    I’ve heard several interviews with American families who’ve lost a loved one in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some have been interviewed several times – that’s fine, I have no objections to that.

    However I’ve yet to hear a single interview with a British, French, Australian, Canadian, German or Italian family who’ve lost a loved one in either of those theatres of war. It’s as though their lives are worth less than an American life?

    Apologies to those of other nationalities who’ve lost a loved one that I’ve not specifically named.

    Please rename yourselves the BBC American Service, for that’s what you’re fast becoming.

  14. July 1, 2009 at 14:54

    Hi WHYS,

    I missed last night’s show. But from what I gather it was pretty explosive. So I am tempted to ask, did the BBC at some point consider inviting Cindy Sheehan?

  15. 19 Mark Sandell
    July 1, 2009 at 14:56

    Patti – bang on, well said.
    Nigel, Anu – and others – yes, i’ll take the criticism of how i managed the discussion (as the editor), but i was trying to facilitate a conversation – and at times that worked and at others it didn’t. A bit like the blog, one or two too many speeches, not enough listening.
    Arthur- i didn’t insinuate anything – but tell me , why do you think people were so hostile to her and so lacking in sympathy for her loss ? was it just that some people thought she was a bit irritating and that she was on too much ?
    Anu- inviting people to “flog” MJ in public ? Way off the mark. I posted as so many of you had commented about her, and mostly in a negative way. I wanted to explain why we’d booked her and to answer some of those criticisms.
    Justin – MJ doesn’t represent Americans any more than you do. She- and we – never said she did. Should we only ask Americans who you agree with on the programme ? The suggestion that MJ is a “caricature” is i think very unfair – she lost her son and holds certain views – why is that a “caricature” ?
    and Afya – fair point, yes, many thought she was patronising and condescending but she only spoke for herself.

  16. 20 Mark Sandell
    July 1, 2009 at 15:16

    Rightpaddock, sorry to be so defensive but your allegation simply isn’t true. Every programme – including ours- has featured the bereaved from other countries. However, something like 4 thousand more U.S troops have died than any other “coalition” nation so to a certain extent it’s natural to feature them more.

    And Muthee – may i refer you to this earlier post from 2007.

  17. 21 Linda in Italy
    July 1, 2009 at 15:27

    Sorry Mark, but I stand by my contention that the BBC set this woman up. Of course we have sympathy for her loss, but the fact that she would infuriate so many Americans and those, like us Brits, who are guilty by association and deeply ashamed of our governments, must have been obvious. The limited reactions of this type from other parts of the world, suggests that prejudices were indeed only being confirmed.
    Putting her up against Lubna, who is so much better educated and articulate, and who has actually experienced the horrors of Iraq over the last 6 years of her very young life was guaranteed to provoke an “interesting” (in the Chinese sense) debate but by allowing poor MJ to make such an idiot of herself smacks of some of the worst excesses of “reality” TV.
    I’m not suggesting that you should only invite the well-educated and the well-informed and those in possession of minimal critical faculties onto your show, I leave that to The Forum, but what about the parents of those young service people killed in this pointless conflict, so horrifyingly reminiscent of Vietnam, who do realise that their children died in vain?
    A woman clearly in terrible pain being masked by denial is indeed a victim and I’m very disappointed in the BBC for such cynical behaviour, since, as you state, she has been on the programme before and you knew the sort of things she was likely to come out with.

  18. 22 Mark Sandell
    July 1, 2009 at 15:45

    Linda, you won’t be surprised if i disagree. The BBC – by which you mean me – didn’t set her up. She doesn’t feel that – but i’ll guess from the tone of your post that you’ll put that down to her not being clever enough to avoid being duped by a cynical media type like me.

    She was invited on to represent herself, just as you speak only for yourself, not everyone who lives in Italy, or are called Linda.

    I do accept that we could have had a contribution from someone who’d lost a relative and didn’t think it was worth it. fair enough.

    Do you not accept though that to say she made “an idiot” of herself could be construed as very patronising ? Because you don’t agree with her ?

  19. 23 Justin from Iowa
    July 1, 2009 at 15:52

    No Mark, I don’t expect only opinions I agree with on the program. But I expect the BBC to screen their guests so that they at least make a gesture towards journalistic integrity while on the program. Most of what MJ said was blatantly un-true, and did not in any way speak for America.

    If your position is different than my own, I am more than willing to respect it as long as you can back it up with reasoned argument and factual information.

  20. 24 Anthony
    July 1, 2009 at 15:57

    Mark my friend:

    The thing is, her son died for a “cause”, which was under false pretenses, and she needs to “lie” to herself in order validate her sons death. The sad thing is, if people like her were to face up and see that their sons and daughters are fighting/dying for an unworthy cause, then that realization would have, and would continue to save so many lives!!!

    Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate these fine people doing their jobs, and I’m very much for us going into Afghanistan, but there was no reason we had to go into Iraq (an even though some say he was a tyrant and WMD (which there were none of.) and blah blah blah, look at ALL the other countries in the world who’s govt. is more violent, and have stronger weapons.

    No offense, but thank the Lord that the republican party is shrinking so fast, because our country (USA) can’t handle these right wing religious extremists anymore ( the ones in the US, not the ones in the middle east.)

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  21. 25 Brad
    July 1, 2009 at 15:58

    Yup, You’re wrong.

    You may have billed her as one who had lost her son, but she was much more than that. She was a strident pro-war American who was given a dominant position on the show. She represents what is now a very tiny minority opinion in this country and was allowed to spout her opinions as fact because she was not challenged by your moderator. She said things that simply were not true about the history of the conflict and about the position of women in Iraq both past and present. She displayed a complete scorn for the results of the Democratic process in this country while all the while offering empty and condescending platitudes about “freedom” and offering quite contradictory notions about what that might mean.

    She should have been balanced by an anti-war mother who lost a son or, failing that, she should have been kept in check by the moderator. She is a frequent guest on right-wing forums and is an activist. She is hardly just a “mom” who lost her son.

    It was frankly embarrassing to listen to her, both as a BBC listener and obviously as an American.

  22. 26 Tom K in Mpls
    July 1, 2009 at 16:13

    Mark, one thing I think you are facing. The people of any country, the US included, can come to realize they made mistakes, the majority is often wrong. In my lifetime there have been two wars and presidents universally regretted, Vietnam and the second Iraq invasion along with the Bushes. I think you are seeing people hating their past lashing out at someone that has the need to have her loss supported.

    On this point as in many cases there is no good answer. But it would be nice for both sides to be a bit less vocal though.

  23. 27 Mark Sandell
    July 1, 2009 at 16:16

    Justin – all fair enough but is it not just a little bit sweeping to say “most of what MJ said was blatantly untrue ” – according to whom ?
    And please read what i wrote earlier – when did anyone say she spoke for America ?

  24. 28 steve
    July 1, 2009 at 16:25

    I read comments on the blog, by a particular poster, that said that her son deserved to be killed. It was published. Why didn’t the BBC read her that comment to know how nasty some people can be? YOu people may not agree with what she believes, but she has a right to say it, and someone told her her son deserved to die. What is worse in your eyes? Someone daring to not agree with you, or someone telling you your son deserved to be killed?

  25. 29 Jessica in NYC
    July 1, 2009 at 16:26


    I for one had criticisms of Lubna when she made comments about my military. I have brought attention on several occasions Lubna’s contradictions on the the blog. For example, she has often stated the US needs to pay for Iraq’s recovery, but not have a say in how the money is spent or that the US are “invaders”, but the US should be there to stabilize the country and so fourth.

    Furthermore, it acceptable for you to attack those who had opposing views to MJ’s politics, but not for us to attack her opinions? I lost a brother in Iraq and have ever right to voice my opposing view to MJ. Her pain is not greater than anyone else who has lost a love one in war. Her comments were not “spleenful” at all, especially the remark about Californians being irrelevant that closed the show.

    Your double standards are clearly noted, your scorn should be viewed as law of the blog for the people who you seem to dislike since we are clearly dispensable audience.

  26. 30 Mark Sandell
    July 1, 2009 at 16:32

    Tom K – thanks for your calm and considered comments. I’m away for a cup of tea now. Much appreciated.

    • 31 Nigel
      July 2, 2009 at 00:34

      Cheers Mark, thanks for being part of what became a post mortem to the show….great stuf. Enjoy the cuppa.

  27. 32 Mark Sandell
    July 1, 2009 at 16:47

    That’s right Jessica, i said people couldn’t attack her opinions. I’ll take your word for it because i can’t find where i said that.
    I obviously haven’t made myself clear and i’m sorry for being confusing :
    Here goes : the level of abuse aimed at MJ was, in my view, because she dared to air an opinion many of you disagreed with and that made her a fair target for some very unpleasant comments.
    I have championed everyone’s right to challenge opinions- that’s kind of what WHYS is all about – but in a way that is courteous and respectful. We haven’t always got that right (as Steve posts above) and won’t get it right all the time in the future but that’s the aim.

    • 33 Jessica in NYC
      July 1, 2009 at 17:13

      That’s the point Mark. I’m sorry, I was not clear. MJ’s opinions are personal and so our ours–personal is subjective to the issue at hand. MJ made personal and offensive comments. Lubna makes a remark about this.

      You come down on people when seemingly you disagree with how they said things instead directing it when something heinous is said. I emailed you about this being a problem and, in my view, you ignore it when it at times. The comment made at MJ where that person said something to the effect of her son should be dead was horrible. Your team should deal with it accordingly. You attacking us is equally unacceptable. Enforce the rules, yes, but telling us to leave is not a very professional way of handling this.

  28. 34 Brad
    July 1, 2009 at 16:50


    This is not an equally weighted conversation. While I would never tell her, the individual, that her son “deserved” to die, her presence and forum make it so that one can’t express such sentiments without it becoming personal, rude or inappropriate.

    What the person said yesterday is that one has a right to shoot the burglar when they enter your home. You responded that that was not the law in the US. However, the law comes very close to this in some states — you know, the MJ states. Of course, because the US troops were using deadly force, I believe that in terms of international law, the Iraqis certainly had the right to resist with deadly force also. This isn’t at all the same as saying her son “deserved” to die.

    My problem wasn’t with MJ expressing her opinions, it was that she was expressing her opinions as facts when in truth they were blissfully ignorant (or perhaps willful) distortions of reality.

    She is an activist, she has put herself out there and she has garnered this type of derision before. So, she has made a choice. It is not like the BBC was walking down the street and encountered someone with her opinions. She has repeatedly made the decision to put herself in the public sphere and with that comes the risk of being personally insulted and professionally challenged. (Just apparently not by the BBC moderator in this case).

  29. 35 patti in cape coral
    July 1, 2009 at 16:54

    I live in a predominantly conservative/republican area where people more or less agree with MJs point of view. I am originally from Chicago and was mainly around people on the more liberal/democratic side of things. I probably lean more toward the liberal way of thinking, even though I can’t say I disagree with all things conservative. I have long since learned to disagree, make my points politely, and keep my mouth shut when I see there is no way to discuss something amicably. After all, I am outnumbered here in Florida :0) I do have to admit that since participating in WHYS I have become less shy about expressing myself than I used to be, and maybe less afraid of confrontation than I used to be.

    I thought this was what WHYS was all about, being able to state your case, have it refuted or agreed with, maybe have your mind changed about a few things, maybe change other people’s minds, and in my case get quite an education about the issues, all done in an atmosphere of mutual respect. I didn’t catch the statement that Steve mentions above about MJs son deserving to be killed, but that sounds like an awful thing to say, and does nothing to communicate the valid reasons she might be wrong.

  30. 36 Chrissy in Portland
    July 1, 2009 at 16:56

    Hi Mark,

    First of all I would like to say that I think you and the WHYS team do a great job!

    I understand the frustration and anger many of the listeners were experiencing in regards to MJ. While I didn’t agree with the vast majority of what MJ said and felt her comments were at times insensitive, I didn’t feel it was right to attack her personally. The great thing about this show is that it give people the chance to have an open diaglog who wouldn’t normally . Just as it was MJ’s right to voice her opinion, it was my right to counter her points.

    I wonder what Lubna and Taghreed’s perceptions were of the angry comments? What about the blogger’s outside the US? Were any of them suprised?

  31. 37 steve
    July 1, 2009 at 17:06

    @ Brad

    Do you view someone having a different opinion as being criminal and worthy of being silenced?

    Not everyone is going to agree with you, you will not agree with everyone else. That’s what adults have to accept.

    Any opinion she has PALES in comparison to someone telling her her son deserved to be killed.

    She only stated opinions. You can’t silence people because you simply don’t agree with them, if you do, you live in a totalitarian state.

  32. 38 Mark Sandell
    July 1, 2009 at 17:09

    Thankyou all of you – and Chrissy, i’m sure Lubna won’t keep us waiting with a reply for you.

    The comment Steve referred to shouldn’t have been posted – i don’t think it was maliciously intended but it probably crossed the line (there were quite a few we couldn’t approve so this may have got under the radar). As i say, we will make mistakes and that was one.

  33. 39 Mark Sandell
    July 1, 2009 at 17:34

    Jessica, “telling us to leave ” ? – this is what i said :
    “Some of the attacks on her were just personal and offensive and i’m not going to dignify those with a reply – if you can’t be civil, please find another forum to vent your spleen – or better still, start your own !”

    I’ll stand by that.

  34. 40 Bert
    July 1, 2009 at 17:37

    Gosh, I disagreed with all points of view on the show.

    I’m one who thought the whole Iraq invasion was completely uncalled for, and poorly executed besides, and with no apparent understanding of the quagmire we were getting into, or the local culture. And I certainly did not and do not believe that the US can cram democracy down the throat of any overly conservative, religiously oriented nation. So it was rather annoying to hear the condescending way in which the US was supposedly telling the Iraqis that we had introduced democracy to them, and that they had taken the first baby steps. Gimme a break.

    At the same time, this misbegotten US action became an occupation in large part because of how the Iraqis behaved. And I’m not just talking about how they behaved against Americans, which should have been totally predictable by the US Administration at the time, but was amazingly not. But also how they behaved (and continue to) against one another, and how they bahaved against people who went to Iraq only to rebuild the country. Non-miltary types, for instance. A bad situation was made far worse by the incredbly brutal behavior. Total chaos

    So, not only did the Shia majority NOT cheer the arriving US troops in 2003 (surprise!), but they and the Sunni went merrily on butchering one another for all they were worth.

    I was afraid that the upsurge of violence, also predictable by the way, was going to delay this first step in getting out of Iraq. Fortunately, it did not.

    So I find it hard to get all cozy with either side of the argument, but I certainly celebrate this “first baby step” in extricating us from where we should never have been in the first place. WMDs or not.

    • 41 Tom K in Mpls
      July 1, 2009 at 18:47

      Bert, small related side point. The attacking of support and rebuilding personnel was very predictable. And for several reasons. The smallest and most predictable would be ‘They are not one of us. Go home.’. The main one is the divisions you point out. ‘They are helping other groups, not us.’. Even if it ‘helps the country’, if other groups benefit more, it is unwanted.

  35. 42 Denton
    July 1, 2009 at 17:38

    With freedom of speech comes responsibility. With American citizenship comes responsibility.

    On both counts, “MJ” was GRAVELY irresponsible on yesterday’s program, but worse, the BBC moderator ENABLED her to continue unchallenged.

    MJ is obviously a VERY disgruntled Republican, disappointed with the results of last November’s presidential election.

    Well, guess what? I was very disappointed with the “election” of George W. Bush in 2000, but I didn’t go on international radio and fraudulently claim that “we do not have representative government” in the United States.

    And I cringed when she asked Lubna if she “had” to wear a headscarve. MJ, have you ever traveled in predominately Muslim countries? I have friends in Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia who HAPPILY wear the hijab.

    Words are incapable of communicating my incredible DISGUST at this vulgar, arrogant and ignorant woman.

    She has my sympathy for the loss of her stepson.

    • 43 Jessica in NYC
      July 1, 2009 at 18:30

      @ Danton,

      Don’t be silly, the high almighty, can’t be bothered with thinking of what it’s like to walk in someone’s shoes on in this case hijab. I may not agree with my own family’s religious views, but have no problem respecting their religion customs.

  36. July 1, 2009 at 17:46

    I wonder if MJ and people on this blog know that the US helped put Saddam Hussein in power. Back in 1959 the CIA hired Saddam (then 22) to assassinate the president of Iraq, Abdel Karim Kassem. The plot failed, Saddam was slightly wounded and the CIA helped him escape to Cairo. Later Kassem was killed and the Baath party took power. This is all outlined in articles by Richard Sale and Roger Morris.

    The US then gave the Baathists a list of leftists to kill and imprison. We helped him in his war with Iran. Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand in 1983.

    So why should Iraqis feel grateful to the US for removing a tyrant we helped to create?

    July 1, 2009 at 17:52


    I am sorry brother lets patch it all over again. Its nothing more than a small tiff between lovers and their perception which I think is all sorted out after cooling down the tempers. It was the way you put your reaction that got my goat and without hesitating, I just let it fly like you did. This is not my standard behavior. A lot of my postings elsewhere have been censured but I have never insisted that that was not the the right thing to be done. We are all prone to minor mistakes and at times its just a small trip and there goes the baby and birth water. Sometimes I am very afraid after posting my notes. What if Mark or Emily, or Ros etc finds me cheating? Its just like that.

    As for the two women, one is truly the ‘lady from Idaho’ whether you like or not (She must know of Hemingway) and the other one is probably living in or near the Green Zone in Baghdad. They both impacted differently on the audience and what happened was no better than what happened between you and me. We are all angry for different reasons and this perhaps describes nothing more than IRAQ itself. We are all part of it because we are all lovers of this country; each in their own fashion.

  38. 46 Justin from Iowa
    July 1, 2009 at 17:59

    I’m sorry, but its a naive, fingers in your ears, nanana attitude to try to take the stand that she was only representing herself. 3/4 of her comments were prefaced with “WE” not “I” or “My”. Your other American guest was repeatedly drowned out by MJ. She spoke as an authority on the majority American Opinion, whatever YOUR intent was when you invited her on the programme, and no effort was made to balance her stance.

    This was the first program on Iraq in a goodly while, and Iraq is a world topic that people pay close attention to in forming their opinions on America, its people, and actions. Letting such a biased opinion on your show with no measures taken to balance it out is aggravating and harmful to say the least.

  39. 47 steve
    July 1, 2009 at 18:00

    @ Denton

    No, freedom of speech doesn’t come with “responsibility”. You basically want to silence views you don’t agree with. That’s not freedom of speech. American citizenship INCLUDES the freedom of speech.

    • 48 Jessica in NYC
      July 1, 2009 at 18:25

      @ Steve,

      No one has the right to have their opinion go unchallenged.

    • 49 Tom K in Mpls
      July 1, 2009 at 18:54

      steve, every aspect of this short post contradicts itself. And everything everyone does comes with responsibility. Not recognizing this is a sigh of immaturity.

  40. 50 Selena
    July 1, 2009 at 18:03

    My goodness, hasn’t this been a lively conversation. It almost makes me want to become a regular contributor again.

    In my view, this kind of stormy debate is exactly what needs to happen to let people see how forceful people can be in their fantasies.

    To have moderated this woman MJ would have been wrong. Her opinions NEED to be aired.

  41. 51 Denton
    July 1, 2009 at 18:11

    Sorry, Steve, but you need to keep your emotions out of this and stop projecting. I have no intent to silence anyone’s views. Rush Limbaugh and FOX News may tell you the contrary, but I can’t help that.

    When ignorant Americans go on international radio and make false claims about this country, we are all harmed. Ever heard of the stereotypical “Ugly American”? Well, MJ is a perfect embodiment.

    I’ve traveled and lived all around the world, and have lived in all 5 time zones of the USA. Trust me on this one, okay?

    P.S. My family includes 4 generations of those who have served in various branches of the U.S. Military. As a person who happens to be gay, I am not allowed to do so.

  42. July 1, 2009 at 18:30

    Salaam to all of our good friends… I do believe that the presence of MJ on the programme yesterday was so important and necessary, b/c she is with the American occupation of my country while I am obviously against it, and that’s how the conversation should go, you have people who are with and people who are against, you put those people together and let them converse with each other. And let me say this to our good American friends who are obviously concerned about the image of American people in the outside world : Forget John, he was on the programme too, his opinions were well made and balanced and he was very respectful to other guests, and he’s an American citizen, so the image of the US wasn’t at all distorted. Again I say it, I did feel at some points during the programme that MJ was talking to me (as an Iraqi citizen who’s opposed to the American occupation of her country, not as Lubna personally) from “above”, and that did make me quite uncomfortable, but I’m neither angry nor upset. With my love. Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad.

  43. 53 Denton
    July 1, 2009 at 18:31

    @Justin from Iowa,

    I agree completely with your post from 17:59. It is IRRESPONSIBLE for any American citizen to go on international radio and claim to speak for anyone but themselves, but “MJ” consistently used the word “we,” even when she insulted the person from Los Angeles (and by extension all Californians) who had posted to the blog. She also completely dominated and monopolized the conversation as only someone driven and fueled by ideology would do.

    Freedom of speech is absolute, but when irresponsible people abuse freedom of speech, it harms all of us. Unfortunately, in the age of Liar Limbaugh and FOX News, that notion seems to have been forgotten.

  44. 54 globalcomedy
    July 1, 2009 at 18:39

    While MJ has a right to her opinion, there’s also talking responsibility for it. That means not parroting out neocon talking points like she did. I’m sorry she lost her son. But, much of what she said was rude and ignorant.

    Nobody cares what people in L.A. say or think: How is this being “civil”?
    MJ is only one person’s opinion. Wrong. In fact, millions of others agree with her.
    And what do these people do when confronted with facts? It’s like a little kid putting their fingers in their ears and saying “I can’t HEAR you!”

  45. 55 globalcomedy
    July 1, 2009 at 18:42

    I’m also sensing a growing disturbing trend in parts of the good old BBC. On many of your shows, you’re using more and more right wing commentators and content (Up All Night on Five Live using so much from ABC News in the States).

    I don’t know all of the contractual details on this. But it’s common knowledge that ABC is one of the most right wing networks in the States (almost as bad as Fox). And for you to depend so heavily on them doesn’t exactly make you look good (IMO).

  46. 56 steve
    July 1, 2009 at 18:51

    People were calling for MJ to be taken off their air. That was wanting her to be silenced, SIMPLY because you don’t agree with her. What do you mean by freedom of speech comes with “responsibility”? IT DOES NOT. You don’t believe in freedom of speech if you think people need to watch themselves thtat they don’t offend someone, somewhere with a limited backbone. YOu either believe in free speech, or you don’t. Not “yes, but…”

  47. 57 globalcomedy
    July 1, 2009 at 18:52

    What would MJ think if a foreign power invaded the States and controlled life for six years? A million people were killed, bombs went off every day. Soldiers raided homes at night. People were tortured. And NOBODY did anyting about it?

    If this happened, I gurantee she would have the exact opposite view that she has now. Parroting neocon talking points like she did on your program is just pure ignorance. And she deserves all the criticism she gets here.

  48. 58 Selena
    July 1, 2009 at 19:03

    The trouble with stopping people from speaking is we will never know what they are thinking.

    I want to know what the MJs of the US are thinking; it is important to know what they are thinking and feeling and capable of doing.

    Knowledge is power! If we have no knowledge of their true opinions, we can never defend ourselves against them.

    How can we see how utterly devoid of reason their views are, if we silence them?

  49. 59 Brad
    July 1, 2009 at 19:20


    How on earth could you construe my objections to MJ and what she was saying as silencing her? I don’t think she’s criminal, just someone with incorrect and belligerant opinions. Kind of like you in many ways. My opinion is that she HAD her say and was allowed to say more than her fair share. My opinion is that her outright falsehoods should have been challenged. Or, should I move to a totalitarian state because you don’t agree with my opinions on this matter? Who wants to silence whom?

    In a forum like this, balance and fact-checking is key to success. That’s called journalism. I know that in your la la blog land, all opinions and facts are equal. Earth is flat, global warming is a sham and we did not evolve from apes. I mean, those are just opinions, right, so they are valid. That is unless one calls for balance in the discussion, or someone calls someone a liar or whatever. Then, that person would obviously be happier in a totalitarian state.

    I get it. Perhaps you should be the decider.

  50. 61 stephen/ portland, Oregon
    July 1, 2009 at 19:23

    You would need to visit the state of Idaho to understand the detachment you experience.

    Napoleon Dinamite, Larry Craig now this Mj character.

    I went there once, this explains a lot!

  51. 62 Dan, DC
    July 1, 2009 at 19:24


    Why is WHYS being so defensive of MJ? You’ve had controversial guests before but I’ve never seen a discussion of this level about one guest come up before.

    You might not have invited her on to represent America, but she seemed to think she had been. She was so condescending, speaking from such a place of authority that it sounded as if she herself had drafted the constitution for Iraqi democracy.

    It’s not that MJ has a political idea that I don’t support, it’s that she seems to think her politics saved Iraq. Speaking of the pull-out of US from Baghdad in the same breath as “now you have running water” makes me wonder what she thought Iraq was like under Saddam. Let Lubna talk about that, and about the state of Baghdad without a US presence. How does MJ know the conditions of Iraqi water utilities? I question her assertion that Iraq never had an army before. What did she mean? There was the Republican Guard. And fear of the Iraqi army was great enough that conservatives like MJ pushed the invasion through on a pretext of finding Saddam’s WMDs.

    I was also confused by MJ asking Lubna whether she wore a headscarf or not. When Lubna said that she did, MJ replied that it was great Lubna could practice her religion, implying that it was only because of the US involvement and withdrawal that Lubna could wear a headscarf. Were women in Saddam’s Iraq compelled to refrain wearing headscarves? I was sure that in much of the Islamic world, that it’s the other way around. My problem with MJ was that she bent every comment to support her talking points: that the war is won, that Obama will spoil that victory, and that Iraq is free. The Iraqis know what work is still to be done, and they don’t need their struggle framed by a woman who understands little of their history.

    I have sympathy that MJ lost her son but why is that being touted as criteria for an invited guest? If it is, you should do this much more often. WHYS seems to be taking this conversation rather personally and responding to our comments rather snidely in return. The blog didn’t look any different yesterday to me than it does most days. Most of the comments posted about MJ didn’t even make it to air. I agree with Jessica, you are attacking us for attacking MJ. Insults aren’t acceptable, but the BBC is large enough to ignore them and filter them from discussion.

    And you’re wrong, Mark. On an opinion show, I can attack a person for her opinions if I feel her opinions are grossly misinformed.

  52. 64 Tom D Ford
    July 1, 2009 at 20:25

    “What struck me from your responses (in the main) was the almost total sympathy you have for Lubna and her losses and hardships, (as all of us who have followed her story do) and how little you had for MJ and her loss – because you didn’t like her politics, or her manner.”

    The War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity were committed against Lubna and her fellow Iraqis and MJs son died while participating in committing those War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity against Lubna. That is what I don’t like, all the killing and dying and the wrongful justifying of it.

    I feel empathy for MJ and her son but I cannot glorify them for what they did and what Bush/Cheney did to them.

    MJs son died for Bush/Cheneys’ sins. I don’t know if she will ever accept that her son did wrong, I very much doubt that she will.

    It is all so sad.

  53. 65 robert
    July 1, 2009 at 22:26

    The right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you have a right to say anything without being challenged. No matter my nor anybodies feelings towards the experience of MJ and Lubna, everything they say openly in public forum must be open to counter arguements being said against them. Everybody has a right to challenge and try to change the opinion of anybody who voices them. Whether they are changed is a matter of the strength of the argument

    • 66 Denton
      July 2, 2009 at 16:58


      EXACTLY. It’s called RESPONSIBLE speech. When you have IRRESPONSIBLE people like MJ dominating a discussion in an INTERNATIONAL forum, the entire dialogue is compromised if not ruined entirely. (Not to mention the incredible incivility she injected into the conversation.)

  54. 67 Jennifer
    July 1, 2009 at 22:27

    Dear MJ,

    I wasn’t able to listen to the show yesterday in it’s entirety but I heard about the general consensus of comments addressed towards you. I just want you to know that your son did not give his life in vain. There are people who are grateful to your son and to your family. Your son gave his life trying to make life better for others. That is a very selfless thing.

    It is my belief that in time those who consider the U.S. a nuisance will no longer be able to deny that they are better off now than under Saddam Hussein’s thumb.

    I am sincerely sorry for the way that you were treated. I am ashamed of the way some people act.

  55. 68 Ann
    July 2, 2009 at 01:34

    Mark – I missed the live show but because of all the outrage torwards MJ during and after the show – I listened to the podcast.

    I have to say while I can sympathise with MJ’s sad loss and her understandable need to believe in the validity of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, her patronising attitude did her no favours. And I can understand how American listeners would be offended and worried by the way she tried to represented the American position.

    And one further comment – my husband, who has never heard the show before listened in to part of this one and his first comment was “Wow, the BBC are setting her up to look foolish and arrogant”

  56. 69 Mark Sandell
    July 2, 2009 at 10:22

    Thanks Ann for your considered comments. Please assure your husband we didn’t set her up and i’m sorry if it sounded that way.
    And Dan, i’ll say this again : you can attack a person’s opinions – not the person.

  57. 70 Mark Sandell
    July 2, 2009 at 10:27

    Finally, Patti has defined very concisely what WHYS should be about :
    “being able to state your case, have it refuted or agreed with, maybe have your mind changed about a few things, maybe change other people’s minds, and in my case get quite an education about the issues, all done in an atmosphere of mutual respect. ”

    Thanks Patti.

  58. 72 anu_D
    July 2, 2009 at 11:21

    ==>>I wouldn;t be surprised if you post also as the Patti id

    Mark Sandell
    July 2, 2009 at 10:27
    Finally, Patti has defined very concisely what WHYS should be about :
    “being able to state your case, have it refuted or agreed with, maybe have your mind changed about a few things, maybe change other people’s minds, and in my case get quite an education about the issues, all done in an atmosphere of mutual respect. ”

    Thanks Patti.

  59. 73 Ann
    July 2, 2009 at 12:08

    Hi again Mark – don’t worry I did tell my husband – I know you guys there wouldn’t do that.

    Whys has a very difficult job do do in trying to achieve objectivity and fairness – I wouldn’t like to have to make the decisions you all have to. I used to teach religious and moral education and the debates in class got heated – it was tricky keeping order and finding the balance between free speech and defining ‘offensiveness’

    Good luck to you all!

  60. 74 patti in cape coral
    July 2, 2009 at 12:50

    @ anu_D – I’m really sorry you think I am not me, because I try very hard to say what I mean in an intelligent manner, as you and many others do. I understand if you disagree with what I am saying, but accusing me of not being who I am strikes me as being as a lazy way of refuting my opinion by casting doubt on my identity.

  61. 75 anu_D
    July 2, 2009 at 15:03

    patti in cape coral
    July 2, 2009 at 12:50
    @ anu_D – I’m really sorry you think I am not me, because I try very hard to say what I mean in an intelligent manner, as you and many others do. I understand if you disagree with what I am saying, but accusing me of not being who I am strikes me as being as a lazy way of refuting my opinion by casting doubt on my identity.

    ==>Hello Patti
    (1)You always almost exactly agree with Mark regrdless of the subjects…and he uses your perfect quotes to make his point

    (2)and you seem to have the magical ability to post exactly after my comments in the publishing sequnce when you want to respond to me……and astonsihingly without my comments being even published.
    That can be possible only if you have an insiders view of the comments in queue for publishing.

    and I remarked ealrlier also…if not Mark, you are an insider at WHYS

    • 76 patti in cape coral
      July 2, 2009 at 19:31

      @t anu_ D –

      1. I happen to agree a lot with Mark, and I guess I am biased towards the program, I happen to love the format and most things about it.

      2. When I respond to you, I usually hit the reply button on your post, and my response will appear immediately under your post. In the past I have thought they didn’t publish my post, then later it shows up. I don’t know if that is what’s happening with you or not.

      I’m sorry if you are uncomfortable with my commenting on your posts, and I won’t from now on if you have a problem with that. It is far from my intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I suppose I should be flattered, as I consider most people here, both the WHYS team and the bloggers to be very intelligent and articulate, and I was very indimidated by it at first, but have finally become more comfortable. I’m new at blogging.

      I suspect I won’t convince you in any case, and I hope other people posting don’t think I’m some kind of WHYS spy. As I don’t know of any way of proving it to you, I guess that is that.

      Good luck to you

    • 78 patti in cape coral
      July 2, 2009 at 19:33

      Also, thank you for calling my quotes perfect!

  62. 79 steve
    July 2, 2009 at 15:36

    @ Tom D Ford

    You’re the one who said her son deserved to die. Now you’re singing a different tune. It’s not Americans blowing themselves up in markets. The day US troops left the cities, 27 people were blown up in Kirkuk, yet somehow you only seem to have a problem with the Americans, who aren’t doing the killing. US not killing anyone = crime against humanity. Bomb killing 27 people in a market = something you choose to ignore.

  63. 80 Tom D Ford
    July 2, 2009 at 16:49

    @ steve
    July 2, 2009 at 15:36

    “@ Tom D Ford

    You’re the one who said her son deserved to die.”

    No Steve, that is a lie. I only said that he died while committing a War Crime against Iraq while Armed. Here in the US In Florida at least, the law allows the victim of an armed burglary to kill the invader in self defense. I believe that is also true under International Law, the victims of an invasion have the right to defend themselves against the occupying force with deadly force.

    I don’t think that anyone “deserves” to die.

    Even the worst criminal ought to kept alive to suffer the rest of his life in jail, to suffer from his Crimes.

  64. 81 Denton
    July 2, 2009 at 16:54

    There’s always someone like “Steve” in every forum: unable and unwilling to see uncomfortable truth(s).

    Good luck, Steve.

  65. 82 Brad
    July 2, 2009 at 17:18


    Those 27 people would not have been killed were it not for the invasion and destabilization of Iraq by American forces. The US invasion unleashed the chaos and death of the insurgents in what had been a stable (though far from ideal) society. The Iraqis did have quite a bit more freedom of at least one kind before the invasion…. freedom from death.

    So, while we should condemn the taking of innocent life by the insurgents we should not forget how this fiasco came to pass.

  66. 83 Dan, DC
    July 2, 2009 at 17:23


    Most of the comments against MJ called her arrogant, condescending and ignorant. She was arrogant in her responses to criticism and her comments towards Lubna. Why is not okay to call her out for her behaviour? She was being very condescending and outright rude to Lubna and, by extension, all of Iraq. Do you think it’s right that MJ said “we haven’t sent you a bill” to Lubna over the cost of the war? Tell me that was a reasonable thing to say. Tell me that her assertions were all based on fact. Come on, stop worshipping opinion over knowledge.

    I don’t see WHYS defending other guests like this. And if you’re still confused as to why your listeners came down hard on MJ and not the other three, it’s because the other three were respectful. MJ didn’t even answer criticism from the listener in California. She dismissed him and his whole state. He had an opinion and she all but said it was worthless simply because CA is facing a crisis. How is that any different from what you’re accusing us of?

    Get over it, Mark. You’re mad with your listeners because you don’t think we feel enough for MJ’s loss. She hijacked the show and had to be stopped from making a speech, yet we can’t criticise her? If you’re too close to her as a guest to be objective, don’t have her on. And don’t act like this is the first time the blog has erupted over one guest.

  67. 84 Justin from Iowa
    July 2, 2009 at 18:35

    I have to say, this is the first time I have lost respect for WHYS over one of these discussions. The politics of damage control I guess. I just have a real feeling of disapointment in how the show was produced. There was too much uninformed opinion un-clarified by facts, for anything really positive to come of it.

  68. 85 Harold in Ft. Myers
    July 4, 2009 at 01:34

    Fascinating. I came to make a comment about MJ after being forced to turn the radio off mid-show. After seeing all of this, I find there is no point, as all possible comments have been made on all sides of the issue. WHYS may not be a perfect platform, and neither are the moderators, but it is certainly unique.

  69. 86 Mark Sandell
    July 6, 2009 at 11:16

    Anu, i can assure you that Patti is not a WHYS insider. She is a supporter of what we’re trying to do here but that doesn’t mean she is uncritical.
    Making absurd accusations about people you don’t even know Anu ,is just wasting space on the blog.

  70. 87 Dan, DC
    July 6, 2009 at 22:03

    While we’re wasting space on the blog, I really can’t believe you’re critising us at all for what gets posted. Simeon from Malawi was the fifth commenter on this thread and he posts about homosexuality being unnatural. What does that have anything to do with MJ’s performance on the show last week? This guy posts something blatantly offensive and completely off-topic, and WHYS publishes it. How can you demand a certain standard on the blog when you hardly enforce any?

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