Update on my friend Peter’s activities in the ISIS camps.

See this post for background.

And note that I’ve gotten new information since the first draft of this post, which I’ve incorporated into it.


Peter Galbraith, long a champion of the Kurds, has been able to use those connections to free (so far; his activities are ongoing) 47 women and children out of Kurdish-controlled Syria. This is substantially more than what most Western governments have been able to do. And thousands of those governments’ citizens— most of them children— still languish in Kurdish-run prison camps.

Most recently, Peter brought out a Canadian woman who had rejected the Islamic State and cooperated with US law enforcement. In March, he freed the woman’s four year old daughter from Roj prison camp in Northeast Syria. The child now lives with her aunt in Canada and will soon reunite with her mother. In November 2019, Peter brought out a German woman, her three children, and an American orphan. This woman too rejected the Islamic State and now studies at a university in Germany.

Peter has reunited fourteen Yazidi women with their twenty children. ISIS abducted these women—teenagers at the time—in 2014 and sold them to ISIS fighters as slaves. When ISIS fell in 2019, the children born of the rapes were forcibly taken from their mothers and placed in an orphanage in Syria. No one— not the UN, not the local governments, not NGOs—was willing or able to help these women. Peter got the children, signed for them at the Syria/Iraq border, and delivered them to their mothers. He brought out two more mothers (with four children) who, because they refused to give up their children, had been kept under de facto house arrest in Syria.

Peter rescued a three year old boy from a German woman who was abusing the child. The child was not the German’s but the child of her husband’s Yazidi slave.

The Canadian woman whom Peter was able to bring out provided a huge amount of valuable information to US law enforcement that will support the prosecution of US citizens (or persons in US custody), and assist in the recovery of kidnapped American children.

I wasn’t sure, in my last post, whether Canada would take this woman back, but it probably will. It has said that it will provide consular services – including repatriation – to any citizen who reaches an embassy, and Peter has apparently arranged for her to be in contact with the Canadian Embassy office in Erbil . The Syrian Kurds have investigated her and found no evidence of crimes or of her committing terrorist acts. 


Peter has also weighed in on Shamima Begum, with whom he has met and talked, and about whom I’ve had what to say on this blog. “I’ve talked to Shamima – she is part of the group of women who have absolutely rejected the Islamic State – I know enough about her to feel quite confident that she’s not a dangerous person.” In this, Peter is at odds with the British intelligence services, who have called for her repatriation to be blocked because they believe she indeed does continue to pose a threat to their country. It’s possible Peter has better sources than the Brits.


University Diaries readers got there before Globe and Mail readers.

UD has watched her friend Peter’s global philanthropy and courage for years, with…

… amazement and admiration, and here he goes again. After arranging, last March, the release of a Canadian child from a camp in Syria holding ISIS women and children, Peter Galbraith has arranged the release of her mother from the same camp. The woman is in Iraq, and it’s not clear that she’ll be allowed into Canada.

What’s most important, I think, is that Peter goes to some trouble to justify the woman’s release:

“This was a special case,” said Galbraith, “because [she] was one of a group of women who had very much broken with the dominant Islamic State ideology in the camps, wearing Western clothes and rejecting it, so she was at risk.”

He also said she’d been instrumental in helping officials locate a missing Yazidi child in one of the camps. 

These are the sorts of conditions which UD (who has been unsympathetic to some of internees as they ask for repatriation) expects to see when, special case by special case, releases from the camps begin to accelerate. This woman put the interest of her child before her own; she cooperated in important ways with officials; and she has been very overt about her rejection of ISIS doctrine. We can never know for sure, of course, that any given adherent or former adherent won’t go back to ISIS; but we can certainly demand an extremely high level of evidence that they won’t.

People Measure America’s Process of De-Fuckfacification in Many Ways.

The reemergence of Tony Fauci, for instance, is one way. For UD, though, you see it even more compellingly in the reinstatement and promotion of people like Yevgeny Vindman.

… Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman, who was the senior ethics official at the National Security Council and its deputy legal adviser from July 2018 to February 2020 … [was] fired from the NSC a year ago by Trump, escorted out of the White House and sent back to the Pentagon.

Yevgeny Vindman is now on a list of colonel promotions that has been approved by the White House and is going to the Senate for formal confirmation…

Vindman chose to hit back hard against the motherfuckers.

Vindman filed a complaint last August with the Pentagon inspector general alleging he was retaliated against by his former White House counsel’s office bosses, John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, for reporting misconduct by Trump. He also lodged allegations of ethics violations by former national security adviser Robert O’Brien for allegedly using NSC staff’s official time for personal errands and “demeaning and demoralizing sexist behavior against … female NSC professionals.”

Of course the Pentagon has more consequential stuff to worry about now. Complaints and ethics violations are all well and good; allowing domestic terrorists to attack the Capitol of the United States sounds like real trouble.

UD’s old friend Peter Galbraith gives a little girl a future.

Making use of his deep Kurdish ties, Peter found a Canadian child at one of the Kurdish-run ISIS prisoner camps and repatriated her. Agonizingly, the child’s mother (an ISIS adherent; one assumes she no longer is, but the Canadians at the moment will not have her) had to agree to give her up, and she did so. This selfless gesture makes commendable an otherwise pitiable fanatic, and will perhaps stand her in good stead in case of a Canadian judicial review.

Another intriguing angle on this: Peter’s father, John Kenneth Galbraith, grew up in southern Ontario (he wrote a book – The Scotch – about it); bagpipes and Auld Lang Syne figured at his funeral. Perhaps Peter’s father’s deep Scottish-Canadian ties also helped.

That’s my guy.

UD‘s Representative, Jamie Raskin, grieving, but still able to write articles of impeachment.

I’m not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and my country and my republic in 2021. It’s not gonna happen.

Officer Goodman risked his life and saved many lives.

This petition asks that he be given the Medal of Honor.


Update: UD thanks a reader who points out that the Medal of Honor is reserved for the military. Apparently a Congressional Gold Medal would be more appropriate.

“Republican Senator Deletes Ad that Made Jewish Opponent’s Nose Bigger”

So that July 27 story was the beginning of my love affair with Jon Ossoff, who has apparently won the other Georgia Senate seat. Jews like UD don’t take kindly to anti-semitism at the highest levels of our national life; I don’t know why, but it just rubs them the wrong way. I gave a generous donation to Ossoff’s campaign minutes after I watched the expanding nose ad, and I’ve given more money since then. Apparently it was well-spent.

A Room With a View

When he looks out from the White House’s north windows, Trump can see the layers of fencing that have sealed him in his temporary home. But he can also see the steady progress that workers have been making on the inaugural viewing stand rising up on Pennsylvania Avenue. Fixed to its front is a huge American flag. The edifice is a visual reminder that in a healthy democracy, power is impermanent. Self-government depends on the Constitution, but also on acts of courage by people such as Raffensperger.


What? You want me to put Raffensperger’s first name in brackets up there? No need. He’s like Cher, like Liberace, like Sting, like Pink, like Charo, like (this one’s for my sister) Morrissey. Raffensperger is so famous, so beloved, that everyone knows him by just one name.

“Stop inspiring people to commit acts of violence.”

This is must-see tv. When you watch Georgia’s Gabriel Sterling, you’re watching the village finally getting back at the village bully. Finally. Not that much of the village; it’s still only a few brave souls. But it’s really happening.

The twisted bully who commands crowds to shriek LOCK HER UP is finally getting what he has so richly deserved. His twisted, violent associates – most recently, bloodthirsty Joe diGenova – are also being called out.

To be sure, millions of people love violence – taking part in it, or watching it – and the last full measure of madmen and madwomen still standing around Trump at the very end will continue to give those millions what they want. But the overwhelming majority of Americans detests viciousness, cruelty, bullying, tormenting, and, like Gabriel Sterling, they are finding their voice.

Today, even William Barr is willing to say no fraud. He will probably welcome the vile attack Trump will level against him; he will probably be grateful to be fired. Maybe he can fashion some sort of respectable future for himself…

Meanwhile, watch out for more Gabriel Sterlings, people willing to call perversion perversion, people willing to be openly decent in an indecent time. Bravo.

Donald Trump: America’s Hiroo Onoda

Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese WW2 soldier found hiding out in the jungle thirty years after the “end” of the conflict (Hiroo didn’t acknowledge that it had ended), wrote a memoir titled No Surrender: My Thirty-year War. At 74, the current American president is unlikely to enjoy Hiroo’s longevity, so let’s anticipate that his memoir will be titled something like No Surrender: My Ten-year War. And though he’ll be hiding out in the comfortable Greenbrier Bunker (after de-de-commissioning it and throwing the tourists out), and will even sneak upstairs for occasional rounds of golf, the president will be no less a hero than Onoda, both men icons of fidelity to a cause.

“He doesn’t deserve a second term in office, and we don’t deserve to live through it.”

Every day, in this final week, more shoes drop. Anonymous outs himself and writes an eloquent plea: VOTE.

I saw Donald Trump prove he is a man without character, and his personal defects have resulted in leadership failures so significant that they can be measured in lost American lives…

[When he read my anonymous opinion piece, Trump] became unhinged…

We must reject the culture of political intimidation that’s been cultivated by this president.

[Trump] has waged an all-out assault on reason, preferring to enthrone emotion and impulse in the seat of our government. The consequences have been calamitous…

On, Wisconsin!

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Plunge right through that poll.
Run the vote way past predictions, lead us to the goal.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Fight on for your fame,
Fight! Badgers, Fellows! Fight! Fight, fight, we’ll win this game.

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Stand up, Badgers sing!
‘Forward’ is our driving spirit, loyal voices ring.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise your glowing flame.
Stand, patriots, let us now salute your name!

‘The country is flying blind into what could be the darkest winter in modern history. Undoubtedly, millions more Americans will be infected with the coronavirus and influenza; many thousands will die.’

The person many consider the nation’s top immunologist resigns in disgust from the government’s politicized anti-covid activity.

Public health and safety have been jeopardized by the administration’s hostility to the truth and by its politicization of the pandemic response, undoubtedly leading to tens of thousands of preventable deaths… More than half of the states in this country are reporting rising covid-19 cases. Nine months into the pandemic, the United States continues to grapple with failed White House leadership. Instead, we get the recent spectacle of the president exploiting his own illness for political purposes and advising the nation, “Don’t be afraid of Covid.”

Other researchers will leave in the same disgust, hoping that their gesture will somehow move the country away from rule by self-serving idiots.

‘Ossoff Beats Perdue By a Nose’…

should be the headline on November 3. Here’s where you can contribute.

Larry Kramer, who won the right to die at an advanced age, has died, age 84.

I mean, he won it. He fought hard for it and won it for himself: a full life. And he fought to win it for everyone else too.

Opening my copy of Reports from the Holocaust: The Making of an AIDS Activist, I go right to his 1987 speech to the Boston Lesbian and Gay Town Meeting – the beginning of Gay Pride Weekend. You want Larry, that’s where you get Larry.

… I believe this gay community of ours has a death wish and that we are going to die, because we refuse to take responsibility for our own lives… What’s the number of dead friends at which you can decide to stop just sitting quietly like the good little boys and girls we were all brought up to be – and start taking rude, noisy, offensive, political action? One? Ten? One hundred? … If I use gross language – go ahead, be offended – I don’t know how else to reach you, how to reach everybody. I tried starting an organization: I cofounded GMHC, which becomes more timid as it becomes richer day by day. I tried writing a play. I tried writing endless articles in the Native and the New York Times and Newsday and screaming on “Donahue” and at every TV camera put in front of me. I helped start ACT UP, a small bunch of too few very courageous people willing to make rude noises. I don’t know what else to do to wake you up! … “You want to die, Felix? Die!” That’s a line from The Normal Heart. In his immense frustration, Ned Weeks yells it at his dying lover. That’s how I feel about all of you… I am telling you they are killing us and we are letting them! Yes, I am screaming like an hysteric. I know that. I look and sound like an asshole. I told you this was going to be my last tirade and I am going to go out screaming so fucking rudely that you will hear this coarse, crude voice of mine in your nightmares. You are going to die and you are going to die very soon unless you get up off your fucking tushies and fight back! Unless you do – you will forgive me – you deserve to die… [Y]ou are saying that your lives are worth shit, and that we deserve to die, and that the deaths of all of our friends and lovers have amounted to nothing.

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