A Progressives on the Prairie event was held this evening at the Heritage Room at Eden Prairie City Hall. Several dozen liberal activists mingled before the event started. (Due to a scheduling conflict, I could only stay for the beginning of the presentation itself.)
Three prominent speakers took part: Former State Sen. Becky Lourey, Ashwin Madia and Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi-American antiwar activist. Lourey and Rasouli socialized with attendees before the presentation; Ashwin Madia arrived just before the main event formally started.
Rasouli once ran Sinbad's restaurant in Minneapolis. I chat with him as he is arranging unframed Iraqi oil paintings on a table. With prices from $100-$200, the paintings are for sale to help raise funds for Rasouli's Muslim Peacemaker Team, he says. In a brief conversation with the friendly and talkative Rasouli, I learn that
*Abbas Mehdi [prominent local Iraqi-American scholar] supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003; Mehdi was never employed by the current government of Iraq. [Mehdi told me otherwise, I mention to Rasouli.]
*Ahmed Chalabi receives $350,000 a month in payment from Israel. ['How do we know this?' I inquire.] Chalabi visited Israel recently, 'to attend a human rights conference.' [QED]
*Israel is deeply involved in the current governance of Iraq. [At this point the velocity of Rasouli's claims was making it difficult for me to request back-up info.]
*83% of the oil now being drilled in Iraq is controlled by US oil companies.
*Rasouli likens the United States' role in Iraq to a rapist.
*The situation in Iraq has worsened (become more violent) as a result of the surge.
*Many Americans unfairly question Rasouli's patriotism. [Evidence?] Gary Eichten promised to give Rasouli a full hour on MPR's Midday but cut him off after 15 minutes. [Now Rasouli knows how Joan of Arc felt.]
*80% of the Iraqi media is in the pay of the CIA.
In short, much of the stuff Rasouli says has a certain whiff of the apocryphal. Indeed, I wouldn't accept his claims without finding some corroborating evidence, kind-hearted though their author may be.
I was only able to hear Becky Lourey's introduction. From the side she interrupts and amplifies on some of the praise contained therein; there aren't many people who can do that and make you like them more; she is a charmer. Lourey opposed DFL-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch in the 2006 primary.
I've heard Ash speak on Iraq on many occasions; his position is without doubt far different from Rasouli's, though as candidate Madia I'm guessing he'll give the audience what they want. Alas, I don't get to hear Madia this evening.
Paulsenologists take note: Mitch Berg took up my Paulsen critique today. While gently calling into question my sanity on [merely!] one point, the big man's response to my overall viewpoint was reasonably sympathetic. Cool!