Saturday, April 14, 2007

Juxtapositions - Iraq

I've always liked the Butterfly Effect theory. It's a good reminder of how the smallest act can ultimately cause great events to occur. I'm also a fatalist, believing that we each have a pre-determined moment of death and nothing we do can change it. In Iraq, we see both theories in action every single day.

By now you've heard about the suicide bomber who blew up the cafeteria in the Parliament building in Baghdad's Green Zone. Today, the WaPo carries an eyewitness account.
BAGHDAD, April 12: The bomber blew himself up no more than a few yards away. First, a brilliant flash of orange light like a starburst, then a giant popping sound. A gust of debris, flesh and blood threw me from my chair as if I were made of cardboard.

I was lying on a bed of shattered glass on the floor of the cafeteria in the Iraqi parliament building, covered with ashes and dust. Small pieces of flesh clung to my bluejeans. Blood, someone else's, speckled the left lens of my silver-rimmed glasses. Blood, mine, oozed from my left hand, punctured by a tiny shard of glass.
The blast was providentially captured on video. I found it surprising how quiet it was in the room. Although it's reported only one person ultimately died, I would have thought there would be more shouting and confusion. But instead it appears those who escaped death merely shuffled quietly out of the building. Perhaps after four years of war they have become inured to the violence but this graf in particular struck me.
At the bottom of a staircase, an old man writhed in pain. He had somehow worked his way down the steps. He had two more to go, but he seemed to have given up. We didn't stop.

At 2:40 p.m., I followed dozens of Iraqis back into the building. I wanted to retrieve my tape recorder and notebook. I walked back up the stairs. The old man was gone.
The author expresses more concern for his notebook than the old man. I suppose it's not unlike those of us who live in big cities and are accosted by legions of homeless people. You can't help them all, so you help none and you certainly avoid eye contact to forestall having to speak to them directly. We're glad enough to escape the same fate and almost prefer not to acknowledge it exists.

Meanwhile, Glenn Greewald picks up this key graf buried in a NYT account of the bombing's aftermath.
In Diwaniya, in the south, where American and Iraqi forces have been clashing for more than a week with militiamen loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, American soldiers prevented Mr. Sadr’s followers from gathering and praying at a mosque dedicated to Imam Ali, an important figure in Shiism.

The militiamen then went to pray at the Sadr group’s office, where Americans arrested three men, including the main spokesman. Mr. Sadr’s supporters blocked the American vehicles from leaving, and the Americans released the three men, witnesses said.
Why on earth US troops would be engaged in preventing the Iraqis from practicing their religion is a question I'll leave to the military experts but I find this a parable for how far our status has fallen. When the first boot hit the ground in Iraq, we went in as a superpower commanding the world's mightiest army. Four years later, our troops are forced to release their prisoners by an angry mob of civilians. If this is supposed to illustrate the success of the surge, it's escaping me. Somehow it doesn't make me feel any safer and surely doesn't fit my definition of winning.

Libby Spencer

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home