Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Speaking Truth to Power

This has been out there for a while, but it's worth a read: Faith, Shame, and Insurgency: Life in occupied Iraq

Steven Vincent, a New York-based freelancer, went to Iraq late last year to report on life after the fall of Saddam. He stayed in Baghdad from mid-September to late October, and took a four-day trip to Basra. Then he published this account in "Reason," a monthly whose editorial staff was against the Iraq war.

Although my experiences were by no means exhaustive, I feel confident that they were intense and profound enough to offer a valid perspective on the state of Iraq today. I spoke to cab drivers, Islamic clerics, waiters, Western journalists, American and British soldiers, anti-war activists, human rights activists, Iraqi housewives, employed and unemployed academics, children, U.S. government officials -— as close to a full panoply of current Baghdad life as I could. What I saw and heard surprised, delighted, and horrified me in ways I could never have predicted.

Along with some telling, and damning, observations on the European and Arab-language media, he confronts his editors with the ultimate Big Question. On behalf of the Iraqis he met, he poses the question for the self-righteous anti-war editors, "for the specialists in the art of uncovering lies and punishing the liars, for the men and women who are solidarity incarnate, humanism incarnate, justice incarnate, fair-play incarnate, and truth incarnate."

And when Iraqis come to you and say "We Iraqis believe that the refusal of France and Germany to offer us help, and the promised departure of Spain, are a catastrophe," I'd like to know what you propose to tell them. Will you make them read your interminable articles, columns, fillers on the lies of José Maria Aznar? Will you make them listen to your jeers, wisecracks, and guffaws concerning Bush and Blair and the threat of WMD? Do you intend to show them the headlines of France's five top dailies during the Iraq war, 29 of which were critical of Saddam Hussein and 135 of which lambasted George Bush and his allies? Will you distribute 10,000 copies of Bertrand Le Gendre's pre-war piece reassuring French readers that the American president's "horror vision of Irak [as a place with an inhumane prison system] is not totally false, but it is simplistic"? Will you make them read every article droning on about every supposed sin in American society?

Go ahead! Tell them that the world's number 1 enemy is America and its society! Go ahead, and tell them that the coalition was wrong in invading Saddam Hussein's Iraq! Go ahead, tell them that they, and the world, are worse off than they were before! Tell them that Bush and Blair and Aznar are despicable liars! Tell them that starting the war and overthrowing Saddam was illegal! Tell them that a UN plan would have saved them and brought about a palatable solution for all! Tell them that you are the ones who embody peace, and truth, and justice, and brotherhood, and love among all mankind! What are you waiting for?! Go ahead! Tell them!