November 24, 2004 Wednesday
Hello once again Home– I got your newest mail, and I am glad to hear that you are still doing well. I also liked getting your news clipping proclaiming a rejuvenating Iraq amid a nay-saying American media. I’d like to write my thoughts on this below, to the article you sent. I will comment as I reread:
The media is to blame for Iraq going poorly? Perhaps in some ways, but they were not the prime overs. The Western media could well be slanted, not in the present of 2004, in their view that America’s venture is presently going to Iraq in a hand basket. I will concede that possibility to you- call them suckers for band-wagoning if you must. After all, it was the media again in the fall and winter of 2002 that did little to heed a war’s probable cost, and served as little more than a microphone for the White House. Yes, it goes without saying that the vast majority of Iraqis are looking forward to elections as your article choruses- it is always a glowing sign of hope when a people practice democracy for the first time; Afghanistan did rather well for a toddler of a democracy.
However, it is still a different world than our own, and democracy itself translates rather differently over there, if at all, as I’m sure you’re aware. What experiences or foundation is there, besides soft sand? For instance, being that the ties of a candidate’s ethnicity or tribalism is virtually the be-all-and-end-all of deciding who a person will vote for, their elections will have a decidedly preformed air about it. To be fair, Americans break into their own preformed tribes, as well, yes? Assuredly, with history as a guide, unity cannot be achieved through such divisiveness- either of ethnic background or, say, national parties? Often in such a culture as is found in the Middle East, a religious leader will dictate to his followers whom he wish ballots cast for. Strange yes, but then they are people that sadly have not been nurtured to have evolved from within themselves an adequate independent voice. The rustlings are there, to be sure, but only time will tell. And that is how it will go for most of this fiasco, as it can safely be called. For good or bad, hell or high water we did break it, and now it is up to us to fix it. But back to your article…
No, it is not all death and destruction, which can be made quite fairly… as long as everything is not dying or being destroyed?… only a large segment. As of November 1, 2004 over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths (of 25 million contestants) could be contributed to our freedom march. Additionally, infant mortality rates sky-rocketed from 29 to 57 deaths per 1,000, which can be understood by the state of the region at the time [wais.stanford.edu/ztopics].
Two of the modest protests I remember before the war from the media were the cautions of 1) bloody urban warfare and 2) egregious Iraqi civilian deaths. This was in turn countered by an administrational prophecy we the liberators would we welcomed as liberators (and we were… until round about dinnertime when people began realizing the heavy cost in security, food, clean water, jobs, electricity, bandits…) The urban warfare once dismissed as a fairy tale on this side of the Atlantic in 2002 is a horror story in 2004. This cannot be debated. So the question must then become, who is doing this? I will read on…
To the assertion that there are only a few kidnappings and the like, but in the next stanza an assertion of no organized rebellion: Yes, there are kidnappings that occur, and these tend to be, but are not limited to, American contractors. Their CONVOYS were ambushed. Those captured are then videotaped to the world- requesting a ransom which never comes- their heads finally cut off. In all the shots of the decapitations depicted, it is not a single masked insurgent wielding the sword, he is surrounded by friends, not forgetting the operator of the camera. Police are regularly the target of much of the violence; it is not one person throwing a rock, it is a group gunning them down. Hospitals are blowing up, but these bombs are not being set by one man. For months al-Sadr was holed up in al-Sadr city with his rabble of a personal army, until finally relinquishing. And, if you remember last April 1st, amid the images of burnt bodies hanging over a bridge, were also pictures of people gathering in the throngs, kicking the carcasses strewn on the ground, and kids hitting the remains with a stick. What shall we makes us this? The releasing of pent-up frustration, that can appear odd? Westerns must look bad as well, after major sports championships, if firey riots in the streets are any parallel.
Surely their mindset cannot be straight after their era under Saddam, but can this thought ever comfort us? It goes back to the question: did Iraq first create a bent, twisted Saddam so many years ago, or did Saddam, once in power, create a twisted Iraq? The fact remains that in this instance it was not foreign nationals that streamed over the border in search of their piece of the terrorism pie- this was the very people we had come to freedomize. Before our eyes were not the regimented and organized, but the everyday citizenry who happened to be present. This should give pause to just how easy it is for those same to join an organized insurgency, if only given the chance.
The Archbishop Sanko quoted in the essay did get one thing crystal: “The war the terrorists fight is senseless.” This stance is also beyond reproach. Terrorism itself is pointless and counterproductive to a true end, even with an admirable aim, of which there has been a great scarcity; yet this points to their very desperation, and desperate people have nothing to lose, and can go on… forever. Remember that fighting against the very people who are trying to help is not a matter foreign to our own history. Lincoln, no matter want you think of him, gave Grant at Appomattox the order that all Southerners could return to their homes in peace, simply by dropping their arms. He knew that the South had to be treated with decorum and dignity- the Prodigal Son returning, or only more turmoil would ensue. Yet, a radical pro-Southern group in which John Wilkes Booth was a member could not see that they were killing the best means to their better advantage. But then, seldom is sober thought accomplished amid a cloud of frustration, guilt, humiliation, and withered pride… and history returns. These modern Iraqis are the Confederacy’s mirror- without, that is, the luxury of any kind of previous tie of brotherhood.
Again the Archbishop Sanko is entirely correct: the Iraqis must govern themselves. It is essential. Yet, to return to a point, there is little of a conventional Iraq, as we consider it in the West. It is not Iraq, indivisible. It is, to again return to another theme, similar to the state loyalty that was common in America’s early history. One was not American, he was first a Mississippian, and then if time permitted an American. Those from Texas understand this. There is no Iraq; there are the Sunnis, the Kurds, the Shities. So, this is very much a matter that must be resolved on their own. A large reason Iraq “worked” (if you can excuse the allusion) during Saddam’s reign was that he kept his own kinsmen at the highest level, much to the detriment of the larger (and much more disadvantaged) “other” ethic tribes. That is the reality of Iraq’s compostion and they can’t see the common good past their own bloodlines. Of course, asking them to would be requesting a fast-forward through their own development, something that the rest of the world has for the most part already undergone. So, relax, get comfortable, and watch the grass grow as these groups learn to be civil with each other.
And can Europe be held in any way accountable? Was it in the store when we shattered the Iraqi merchandise? Didn’t they tell us it is would be much better to stay at home and tend to our own weed garden? Yes, the entire world does need peace: we were being told the very same in 2002.
Finally, these are just my thoughts, but ones I have taken care in cultivating. Honestly, this is bigger than a simple “everything’s cool.” Yet, before I sound like a complete cynic, I will say that such an outlook is the rain and light necessary for the work ahead. Is it possible? I dearly hope so, but then, it’s not up to me. Hopefully our troops will return home soon- we need them here, standing guard at NBA games.