Friday, July 16, 2004Meet The New Iraq, Same As The Old Iraq
There's a sequence in Fahrenheit 9/11 that seems to be broadly misunderstood by many people who went into the film looking for things to be angry at. In this sequence, the people of Iraq are depicted prior to the beginning to the notorious(ly pointless) "Shock and Awe" campaign: playing children, what looks like a wedding, street life. Some have interpreted this sequence to suggest that Iraq was a place of nothing but happiness before the bombs fell, and a hellhole afterwards. I think this overlooks the subtler, but far more powerful meaning: these are real people, living real lives, just like yours and mine. There were bad things, but there were good things as well; people had parties, children did what children always do, and normal folks got on with their lives. This is as true after the bombs as it was before, although those same people (those of them that are still alive after more than a year of war) now have some major hazards to work around.
One of the things I most wish would change about this country is our damned isolationism. Only something like 10% of Americans even own a passport, and only a fraction of those, I suspect, have ever used them in a serious way. Once you get your ass abroad and begin to live as a foreigner, one thing inevitably inserts itself into your general awareness: these people are exactly like you. It doesn't matter where you go, how wildly different the culture might be from your own, the simple truth remains: we're all the same, we're all one.
The failure to realize this has been a major problem in this war, I think. I can understand why soldiers occupying Iraq might come to detest Iraqis; I can even understand why their families would dislike Iraqis. But the rest of us have no excuse but ignorance. Denying the humanity of other people is the first step towards total moral corruption; the necessity of ignoring the humanity of one's enemies in battle is a major symptom of the simple immorality of war.
I have noticed lately that as more and more people die on each side, we're hearing about it less and less. Continual death is fatiguing for the public, but no more so than for those who have no choice but to face it on a daily basis; it seems to me to be the least we can do to recognize and acknowledge these deaths. So why are the reports now buried, where once they were the lead story? Are we simply bored with the war?
Just in case you missed it, more than a thousand coalition troops have been killed, and the number of Americans killed is nearly at 900. Add to that the thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis who have been maimed, and we're knee-deep in blood already. If you'd care to keep track -- and you do have to work at it these days -- you can keep up on American casualities at the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, and Iraqi casualties at Iraqi Civilian War Casualties.
Finally, it looks like the worries of the people of Iraq are not going to include the expenses of extended parties celebrating their new freedom anytime soon. While the country still sits under martial law, the new Prime Minister is apparently more like Saddam than anyone would like. Summary executions without benefit of a defense or trial? Tsk tsk. |